What causes loneliness among seniors, and why is it critical that organizations understand loneliness and aging?
The IBM Institute for Business Value asked those questions in a recent report entitled “Loneliness and the aging population: How businesses and governments can address a looming crisis.”
Adriene Iverson, President and CEO of Elder Care Alliance, was among 50 experts from six countries IBM interviewed to help shed light on the magnitude of the problem along with ideas for current and future solutions.
The study authors note that they sought input from the 50 thought leaders — including academic researchers, business leaders, medical professionals and others — to focus on important issues including the factors that lead to loneliness among older adults and the reasons that loneliness is so difficult to correct. In addition, the report delved into the ways in which loneliness is being remedied in the current senior population and possible guidelines for future solutions.
The Problem of Loneliness Among Seniors
In the breakneck pace of modern life, many adults appreciate quiet moments to reflect and recharge as they disconnect. But for some older adults, solitude can become too frequent and can lead to loneliness. Long-lasting isolation can have devastating effects for many seniors, the IBM report notes.
In many cases, loneliness can result from a lack of social connection. It can lead to serious negative outcomes for seniors — including medical consequences —and can impact families and the larger society. While required levels of social interaction vary among individuals, loneliness stands as an independent risk factor as people age.
The recognition of loneliness as an important harbinger of potential negative outcomes emerges as the aging population increases. By 2050, experts predict that approximately 30 percent of the U.S. population will be over the age of 60. In the countries of Germany, Italy, Singapore and Japan, the over-60 population is expected to reach 40 percent.
With the increase in the proportion of seniors among the general population, the problem of loneliness — and its possible solutions — looms even larger.
Thought Leadership at Elder Care Alliance
As the IBM report points out, loneliness is more than a passing state of mind. Instead, it’s a significant risk factor that can cause negative effects for personal well-being as well as that of families and even societies. That’s why IBM partnered with thought leaders with an interest in identifying the root causes of loneliness and working on solutions for the problem.
Without intervention, more seniors will face a lack of socialization that will lead to other problems.
Elder Care Alliance’s Iverson believes that a solution may lie in getting seniors involved in causes and pursuits that interest them.
“To get connected to an organization or a cause that they [older adults] might be passionate about or want to support… gives them vocational wellness, which is one of the antidotes to loneliness,” she noted in the report.
Iverson’s contribution to the IBM report is just one example of her thought leadership in the field of senior living. Her involvement in important studies like these helps support Elder Care Alliance’s mission and vision, including creating communities where seniors are empowered and engaged.