Isolation Adversely Impacting the Elderly

Experts across Canada have noted an alarming mental and physical decline impacting the country’s aging population due to loneliness and social isolation. According to a recent report from the National Institute of Ageing (NIA), 41 percent of Canadians over age 50 are prime candidates for social isolation and almost 60 percent admit to experiencing loneliness. Jacques Lee, a Toronto-based emergency physician, says, “Social isolation and loneliness are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. … This is nothing I ever learned in medical school. This is nothing we’ve been trained to ask about and we don’t know how to prescribe for it either. So, it’s a hugely impactful health problem that we’re not monitoring and we’re not treating.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued a warning that loneliness could turn into a global epidemic. Making a distinction between loneliness and social isolation, the NIA describes social isolation as a “measurable deficiency in the number of social relations a person has.” The NIA describes loneliness as “an internal subjective experience,” that occurs when a person’s social relationships don’t measure up in quality or quantity to what they desire. Both conditions carry similar risks for premature mortality to things like smoking, inadequate physical activity, obesity, substance abuse, injury, violence, and lack of access to health care, according to the NIA.

In what ways has your ministry specifically addressed loneliness and isolation for the guests you serve?

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