29 Jun 2019 The Very Serious Problem of Senior Loneliness
Jim Lipman, GoFind Inc.
A January, 2019 article from the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), entitled The “Loneliness Epidemic,” starts off by stating:
Loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, researchers warned in a recent webcast, and the problem is particularly acute among seniors, especially during holidays.
From CareMore Health come sobering key findings from studies, that “An estimated $6.7B in annual federal spending is attributable to social isolation among older adults. Poor social relationships were associated with a 29% increase in risk of coronary heart disease and a 32% rise in the risk of stroke.”
The desire of seniors to “Age in Place,” which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define as, “The ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level,” is a contributing factor to the rapid increase of senior loneliness. Many seniors age in place by themselves, with no spouses or other family members in the same household.
Elder loneliness issues have led to the relatively recent development of technology that supports apps and PERS (Personal Emergency Response Systems) devices that incorporate voice communications, such as those associated with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Smart Speaker voice assistants. Such “voice first” devices are used for more than just summoning help when a user is in distress. They also allow the user to initiate and participate in verbal social interaction with a voice assistant to get weather reports, news flashes, med and appointment reminders, and even communicate with family members.
Today’s seniors live in the cellphone age where, even if they do not use a cellphone on a regular basis, understand the usefulness it provides for all kinds of communications. With the help of a caregiver, setting up a voice-first app on an inexpensive voice assistant device, such as the Amazon Echo Dot, provides an elder with valuable companionship that can then carry over to a physical PERS wearable or pendant.
Senior loneliness is real – apps and devices to help alleviate it are available.