Level of interest in the problem
In case of the aging population, the isolation and loneliness are more than the mere state of mind. It is generally considered as the emerging factor of the risk that tends to have an impact on the personal, social and economic well-being of the individual (Shankar et al. 2017). A wide range of stakeholders that includes leaders, businessmen, governments, groups of advocacy, medical professionals and organizations of social services tends to have significant interest towards the prevention, identification and proper addressing of the key causes of loneliness and isolation among the older aged population in the society.
The older adults generally face continuous detachment from the mainstream. The understanding of the views of the stakeholders and the relevant knowledge regarding the social isolation and the concept of loneliness is one of the key factors towards the assessing of the requirement for the evidence that is based on disseminating research in respect to actual prevalence and related issues (Boss, Kang and Branson 2015). The views of the stakeholders regarding the increasing number of the risk of loneliness and the social isolation of the older people strengthen the scenario for the agencies working on the communities to be more sensitive in the area of older people.
One of the key directions of governmental policy is the social inclusion which ensures that all the people of Australia have the opportunity, resources and the capability for effective engagement by interconnection with the people and the resources of the local community.
The scope of the problem
Loneliness for many arises from the unmet requirements for the social interactions. It is a precursor towards the host of the poor medical condition and the social outcomes which tend to have ripple impacts of the economy over families, multiple industries, and the society. Loneliness in case of the adults is often almost triggered by some of the forms of loss or damage whether at personal or at the social level (Ong, Uchino and Wethington 2016). The loss in physical structures that includes problems in mobility together with the visual and the hearing impairments has the high tendency of social isolation and diminishing social interactions. Over the time, researches have found that many of the older people experience the social loss of family, friends for age or physical issues and see their own roles in the society getting reduced or diminished.
Loneliness is mostly a multifaceted challenge which requires action from various angles for effective solving.
Figure1; Multiple challenges towards persistent loneliness
Source: (Courtin and Knapp 2017)
The figure above illustrates the barriers towards the proper addressing of loneliness that is divided into two major areas: the lack of effective solutions and obstacles to taking action.
The concept of social isolation and loneliness has long been on the focus of the research. The older adults are generally at the increased risk of being lonely and isolated socially by the time they reach the 80s. Furthermore, with the children and the family member moving away, the social network of the older people tends to get smaller day by day. Staying alone, problems related to health and disability and sensory impairment such as loss in hearing and major life events like loss of partner as some of the factors of key risks for the loneliness and social isolation.
Potential and current impacts and possible contributing factors
The potential and the harmful effects of the social isolation and loneliness on the health of the old population are well established. Some of the possible effects of loneliness and isolation include impairment of the health status by rising level of hormones, inflammation, higher risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis and even suicidal attempts (Luhmann and Hawkley 2016). Some of the broad categories of impacts include long-term illness like a high level of blood pressure, depression, impaired mobility and associated diseases related to social isolation. Furthermore, cognitive decline and high risk of dementia are some of the common symptoms of the feeling of loneliness. One of the other instances of loneliness is the high risk of vulnerability towards the abuse of the elder person by the abusers who attempt to isolate the adults. Finally, acute depression and pessimism resulting in the poor and degrading quality of lifestyle are some of the key challenges the elderly population faces due to loneliness and isolation.
The impacts of loneliness on health are not only limited to the elderly people but also affects the families and the persons who care for them and spends significant time with the elderly people. The concept of loneliness and isolation tends to place a heavy burden on the person who cares who tries to fulfill the social gap between isolation and proper addressing of the medical requirements. The hidden cost of loneliness in the elderly population is the economic and the social consequences (Gardiner, Geldenhuys and Gott 2018). From the communities who are losing the contribution of the older adults to the governments trying to manage the overall social care budget, the condition of the elderly population is worsening day by day.
Boss, L., Kang, D.H. and Branson, S., 2015. Loneliness and cognitive function in the older adult: a systematic review. International Psychogeriatrics, 27(4), pp.541-553.
Courtin, E. and Knapp, M., 2017. Social isolation, loneliness and health in old age: a scoping review. Health & social care in the community, 25(3), pp.799-812.
Gardiner, C., Geldenhuys, G. and Gott, M., 2018. Interventions to reduce social isolation and loneliness among older people: an integrative review. Health & social care in the community, 26(2), pp.147-157.
Luhmann, M. and Hawkley, L.C., 2016. Age differences in loneliness from late adolescence to oldest old age. Developmental Psychology, 52(6), p.943.
Ong, A.D., Uchino, B.N. and Wethington, E., 2016. Loneliness and health in older adults: A mini-review and synthesis. Gerontology, 62(4), pp.443-449.
Shankar, A., McMunn, A., Demakakos, P., Hamer, M. and Steptoe, A., 2017. Social isolation and loneliness: Prospective associations with functional status in older adults. Health psychology, 36(2), p.179.