Mental health continues to be a growing concern for the overall population but what isn’t readily discussed the mental health of adults 65 years and older. Loneliness is an emerging issue for this population and it has a clear impact on their overall health. According to a 2017 report from IBM, if measures aren’t taken to counter these effects, seniors face continued detachment from the mainstream even as the population grows. The report includes research from multiple studies indicating there is a link between loneliness in seniors and declining health, including a 29 percent increased risk of coronary heart disease, 32 percent increased risk of stroke, 64 percent increase in developing dementia, and 26 percent increase in likelihood of death.
Another interesting conclusion from the IBM report is that “loneliness in older adults is almost always triggered by some form of loss, whether at a personal and/or societal level.” The report goes on to say that “physical losses, including mobility problems, as well as visual and hearing impairments, can lead to a striking increase in social isolation and diminished social interactions. And over time, many older adults experience the social loss of family and friends to old age or physical distance while seeing their own roles in society reduced or ignored.” As seniors become more disconnected from their family, these feelings can increase and pose problems to their health that shouldn’t be ignored.
In fact, Nevada has one of the fastest growing aging populations in the nation and the number of seniors in Nevada is expected to grow over the next several years to account for nearly one-third of the state’s population by 2030 , according to state demographer Jeff Hardcastle. This means that more resources will need to be dedicated to caring for seniors and their mental health needs and concerns in the future.