Many seniors shy away from the prospect of moving to a senior housing community. After decades of independence, they believe they'll have to give up their freedom if they move, choosing instead to remain in their homes alone. But living alone doesn't guarantee a better quality of life. In fact, it can have a negative effect on a senior's mental and physical health.
There are four serious disadvantages of living alone that you or your loved one should consider.
Living alone can lead to feelings of isolation, especially if a senior does not have an active network of people he or she can meet with on a regular basis.
Seniors who spend long periods of time at home alone may develop mental health issues, as several studies have linked isolation in the elderly with depression. Living alone can also lead to cognitive decline. One study, which measured 828 seniors, found isolation led to poorer cognitive function.
Seniors who live alone may be at higher risk for some health problems, even early death. A study by the University of California, San Francisco, which followed more than 1,000 seniors over six years, found that those who reported feeling isolated were 45% more likely to die during the course of the study and 59% more likely to experience physical decline.
For many people, staying physically fit is a lot easier when they're motivated by someone else. Seniors living alone may feel less motivated to be active, which can lead to a host of other health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, and strokes.
Seniors may also suffer from poor nutrition. When they live alone, they're more likely to skip meals or eat convenience foods, which offer little to no nutritional value.
Often, when seniors live alone they try to do chores and make repairs themselves, rather than wait for someone else to come assist them. This can pose a danger as many of these activities, like climbing a ladder to replace a light bulb, can lead to falls and other injuries.
Living alone may pose another problem. Seniors may not be able to get immediate medical attention after an injury.
Seniors are routinely targeted for financial scams, whether it is from a telemarketer, a mailed advertisement, or even a family friend. These scams range from buying needless car warranties to signing over a quitclaim deed, giving the scammer the legal right to the senior's home. Seniors living alone are especially vulnerable to scams, as they may not have immediate access to a trusted person who can advise them.