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Senior isolation can cause physical and mental damage

Steven HWG

The average age in Wichita has been trending upwards for at least the last ten years. And as it does, it is vital to consider the mental health of our post-retirement citizens.

Many are seeking to age in-place, staying in their home for as long as possible rather than relocate to a senior care home. And while the appeal of such a decision is obvious, the logistic challenges merit consideration. Was the house built with mobility in mind? Are they able to get out to medical appointments or run errands? Are their children close enough to visit? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then isolation and the associated mental health concerns become a nearly inescapable possibility.

Senior isolation has been linked to anxiety and depression, not to mention high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, Alzheimer’s, weakened immune systems, and general cognitive decline. In addition, it has been known for years that just 14 days of isolation causes irreversible psychological damage to the human brain, even among healthy adults. For all these reasons, it is vital for those aging in their golden years to have opportunities to remain social and active. Things like senior companion or respite programs offered by a variety of mental health organizations and churches can be literal life-savers. And nearly every community has resources that allow such programs to be offered at no cost thanks to volunteers.

If you are worried about a family member or neighbor not having the socialization opportunities they need as they age in-place, please reach out to a mental health organization in their area to inquire about these programs. Aging isn’t just about how long you live; it’s also about how well you live.

Eric Litwiller has served the south central Kansas community through his work at Mental Health Association since September of 2017. As Director of Development and Communications, he is charged with seeking the private investment required to raise awareness of the scope of mental health concerns throughout the region in an effort to eliminate the unfair stigma associated with mental illness.