Monday, January 21, 2019

Bullying, Loneliness, Mortality in Older Adult Senior Communities (Research, Bullying Link)

Solitude can be a good friend at any age for those who have learned to embrace its opportunities. Loneliness, on the other hand, is another story. While every age experiences some level of loneliness, older adults are often assumed to experience loneliness more as their peers die. People often imagine older adults living at home alone in a house where they have few visitors or other forms of engaging contact while life happens. They also may not make the connection that ongoing loneliness can negatively impact health, particularly in the form of depression, a risk factor for other serious healthcare issues.

Ironically, older adult housing communities are often viewed as solutions to the loneliness problems of those living alone at home. But aging in place at home can be a good thing when all the caregiving, social, security and enrichment pieces are in place. These same factors should also be in place in excellent housing communities. Sometimes they aren’t available in either location.

While few studies have examined the effects of loneliness and social isolation on older adult health, this study, which included a nationally representative sample of middle-aged and older adults with a follow-up period of up to 20 years, did. Results show that effects of loneliness and social isolation interact with each other: The higher the social isolation, the larger the effect of loneliness on mortality. The higher the loneliness, the larger the effect of social isolation.

Preventing social isolation in older adult communities includes important components involving mental, spiritual, and physical stimulation provided by various experiences such as exercise and other classes, entertainment, clubs, trips, games, movies, dining experiences, etc. This buffet of well-rounded choices from which residents decide how to live their daily lives should be grounded in an institutional culture supporting each resident’s right to be treated with equality and respect at all times.

I could not end this post without addressing bullying, an under-reported and too often unaddressed problem in many older adult communities. Bullying often plays a role in older adults isolating themselves to avoid contact with bullies who target them or others. Being excluded from seating in dining areas, movie theater rooms, etc., to which they are entitled on a first-come, first-served basis, as well as verbal, mental, and physical abuse are all forms of bullying. No one should have to age while being mistreated regularly by selfish neighbors who justify their actions that negatively impact victims' health. Studies indicate that one in five older adults are bullied. Senior communities must have ongoing assessment, implementation, monitoring, and staff inservice training supporting equality and respect in the culture of their communities. 

You can read my post on bullying, which includes detailed examples, solutions, and a brief video explaining some of the legal and legislative senior bullying issues here:

Bullying in older adult senior communities continues to escalate. More information and solutions can be found at this AARP site:

Frances Shani Parker
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog

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