Covering mental health issues among older adults first means understanding the differences between issues of social isolation, loneliness, depression, and the effect of cognitive decline. Each issue may affect a person or several may be occurring simultaneously. Don’t interchange the terms however, because they’re not the same condition.
At last week’s Journalism Workshop on Aging and Health in Los Angeles, panelists stressed the importance of getting it right. You can be alone, but not lonely, or socially isolated. You can be socially isolated but not lonely. You can be either, or both. Continue reading
We know social isolation and loneliness are detrimental to health, particularly among the older adult population. It’s a problem that seems to be getting worse, according to this recent report from Pew Research.
It found that, on average, U.S. adults over age 60 spend more than half of their waking hours alone and for those who live by themselves, that’s as much as 10 hours a day, compared with about half that rate for people in their 40s and 50s. Continue reading
Social isolation and loneliness are associated with increased mortality in older adults. Social isolation also has been linked to other adverse health effects, including dementia, increased risk for hospital readmission and increased risk of falls. However, research consistently shows that feeling connected and involved benefits both mental and physical health.
Social isolation and loneliness are not quite the same things, although the terms sometimes are used interchangeably. Continue reading
The future of services for our aging population will be shaped by the future of technology.
A small example of this important trend appeared last week in a Bloomberg BusinessWeek article by Jane Applegate. She wrote about a new line of walking shoes outfitted with GPS devices that can help track older people with dementia:
“This December, Aetrex (Worldwide, a specialty shoe manufacturer based in Teaneck, N.J.) and GTX (based in Los Angeles) launched the Aetrex Navistar GPS Footwear System, a $300 walking shoe with GTX’s GPS transmitter and receiver embedded in the right heel. Caregivers go online to create a virtual fence – a zone around the person’s residence – and pay Aetrex about $39 a month to receive alerts when the wearer leaves the area. If Grandma does leave, her location will be visible as long as where she goes has cellular coverage …”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago, 60 percent of the 5.4 million Americans dealing with the debilitating disease tend to run away or wander during its last stages. The market for technology designed to assist seniors is expected to reach $20 billion by 2020, according to Laurie Orlov, founder of research firm Aging in Place Technology Watch.”
Orlov’s website is a good resource for reporters looking for trends and insight. Not surprisingly, products and services that help people age in place, which The Miami Herald examined in a recent article, are a major focus.
This business segment spans everything from electronic pill boxes to in-home sensors that track an older person’s movements around the house and send an alert if something seems suspicious. See this New York Times article from 2009 (eons ago in technology time!) for more perspective on the trend. Continue reading