Whatever your age, having a buddy or buddies does wonders for your social, emotional and physical health. The older you are, the more important it can be to have buddies, though it is often harder to have even a single buddy. The Wall Street Journal reports that older baby boomers are, more than ever before, aging alone and lonely.
Not only does social isolation and loneliness take a toll on individuals, making people’s retirement challenging, it is a threat to the public health. Today, more than 25 percent of boomers never married or are divorced. About 8 million Americans, 9 percent of people 50 and older, are without a partner or child. And, that number is only expected to increase.
The physical toll loneliness takes on older adults is equivalent to smoking as many as 15 cigarettes a day or drinking six cocktails, beers or glasses of wine a day. Loneliness shortens people’s lifespans. It is worse for your health than being overweight or not exercising.
Loneliness in older adults imposes a large cost on the federal government. It costs Medicare nearly $7 billion a year, according to a 2017 AARP study, in partnership with Harvard and Stanford. Loneliness leads to more time hospitalized and in nursing homes.
To address loneliness, study authors propose the need for a tool to screen older adults for social isolation and the testing of interventions that recognize cultural, socio-economic, mental and functional differences among people. They recommend that, once developed, the tool be used in Welcome to Medicare and Medicare annual wellness visits.
Recognizing the challenges of social isolation, Great Britain recently appointed a minister of loneliness. The Trump Administration is focused on expanding faith-based partnerships.
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