Seniors’ social isolation and loneliness are two major societal issues that are underrepresented in British Columbia. While many people suffer from these issues, seniors are more likely to be affected given that most have retired and have more time at their disposal in comparison to the working population.

In British Columbia alone, there are just under 850,000 seniors; this equates to roughly 18 percent of B.C.’s residents. As Baby Boomers are gradually aging and as seniors continue to move to B.C., the senior population continues to grow.

Isolation and loneliness are distinctly separate matters that need to be taken into consideration. Isolation is the objective state referring to seclusion. This includes living alone, limited contact with family and friends, living in rural areas, or spending the majority of each day alone. On the other hand, loneliness accounts for the emotion associated with isolation in a subjective state. Low confidence, lack of companionship, and limited access to surrounding communities are factors that contribute to loneliness in the elderly.

With the continual withdrawal from social activities and interaction, seniors can become vulnerable to negative health effects and abuse. Elder abuse can take place in the form of various financial, physical, or psychological exploitations. Recognizing the warning signs of elder abuse is of utmost importance. Seniors First BC has compiled a list of common identifiers to look out for.

Negative health effects can be both mental and physical. Extended isolation can lead to decreased brain function which can increase the likelihood of cognitive impairment such as dementia. Furthermore, isolation may bring about extreme cases of self-neglect that can result in poor diet and hygiene practices.

In way of recognizing and offering support, United Way in the Lower Mainland has put in place 67 programs across B.C. targeted to seniors at risk of isolation and loneliness. When you’re vulnerable, the right connection can save your life. Luckily, Angie found United Way-supported Seniors Active Aging program, Let’s Walk and Roll.

What do we have if we don’t have a connection… We have only ourselves. And with United Way funding we are able to reach out to so many seniors.

—Marlene, 74-year-old Seniors Connector at United Way

United Way fosters a welcoming community environment to build on seniors’ quality of life through social and recreational activities. Find volunteering opportunities or donate to United Way to support a community near you today.

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