A quarter of seniors aged 65 and older face social isolation due to living alone, poor health, and distance from or loss of loved ones and friends. This kind of isolation can negatively impact mental health, as well as increase the risk of certain chronic diseases and severe medical conditions, such as dementia and depression, by 50%. Loneliness among the elderly has become an epidemic, particularly in care homes.
This situation is the main trigger of another serious issue among the elderly: suicide. Even though seniors account for only 12% of the American population, they make up about 18% of suicides every year. What’s more, one out of four older adults who attempt suicide will succeed, against one in 200 young people.
The Aging Population in America
In the U.S. alone, it is expected that over the next few decades, the number of adults above the age of 65 will reach 95 million by 2060. As the Baby Boomer population continues to age, it is estimated that by then almost 1 in 4 Americans will be 65 years old and over.
From a healthcare perspective, this means that care homes, nursing facilities, and hospitals are going to see a drastic increase in occupancy. There will also be many more older adults relying on walkers, wheelchairs, and hospital beds.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Roughly 6 million elderly Americans are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and that number is bound to rise to 13 million by 2050. The disease is devastating not only to the individual suffering from it, but also to their loved ones.
It’s a very lethal condition as well: it is estimated that Alzheimer's or another dementia kills 1 out of 3 seniors, which is more than breast and prostate cancer combined.
Dementia affects an individual’s memory and brain function. While there is no cure-all treatment, a proven way to help improve cognition and prolong memory function is to show them important photos that represent positive memories.
Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures, 2022. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures
Mather, Mark; Scommegna, Paola; Kilduff, Lillian. Fact Sheet: Aging in the United States, 2019. https://www.prb.org/resources/fact-sheet-aging-in-the-united-states/
National Council on Aging. Suicide and Older Adults: What You Should Know, 2021. https://www.ncoa.org/article/suicide-and-older-adults-what-you-should-know
Rural Health Information Hub. Demographic Changes and Aging Population, 2022. https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/toolkits/aging/1/demographics
Weingarten, Debbie. Older Adults Face High Risk of Social Isolation, 2021. https://www.healthify.us/healthify-insights/older-adults-face-high-risk-of-social-isolation