Not only does loneliness lead to feelings of disaffection and isolation, but it can also affect our memories, especially in times where we can’t see our family and friends as often as possible. This can have some impact on our mental health and ability to retain memories.
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3 Ways Loneliness Affects Memory Retention in Seniors
Loneliness and isolation have always been linked to serious health concerns, and many of us experience this phenomenon often.
Older adults are at increased risk for loneliness and social isolation because they are more likely to face factors such as living alone, the loss of family or friends, chronic illness, and hearing loss.
This affects memory retention in specific ways, such as:
1. Memory Decline
Like our physical muscles, our brains often operate on a "use it or lose it" paradigm. Studies show that those who spend time isolated and lonely demonstrate increased cases of memory decline.
Over time, the cumulative effects can become profound. The more extended the isolation, the sharper the decline.
2. Slower Processing Speeds
While loneliness can be associated with overall cognitive decline, this dynamic often manifests itself as a slower overall speed in taking in and processing new information. Those of us who spend time alone and isolated quickly become overwhelmed when they're faced with new information or questions, responding slowly to stimulating environments if at all.
3. Increased Risks of Developing Dementia
Loneliness has long been associated with an increased risk for developing dementia. Although the extent of the association remains unclear, there is enough overlap to raise cause for concern.
How Seniors Can Alleviate Loneliness
Staving off loneliness can have an enormous positive impact on your health and well-being. Here are a few tried and true methods we suggest:
- Establish and keep daily routines—Routines help us manage tasks and maintain a consistent way of life, particularly in independent living situations. A routine also takes the stress out of daily decision-making, freeing up cognitive energies to focus elsewhere. Most importantly, make sure your routines involve interacting with other people!
- Build routines around social engagements—You need to engage with others daily. From video chats to in-person visits to getting out of the house (when possible), each engagement not only gives you something to look forward to but also gives increased opportunities to hold onto mental acuity.
- Engage in brain-stimulating activities alongside other people—From playing games to making crafts to reading and writing letters, activities that keep you thinking can help keep you sharp.
Here at Jacaranda Trace, we understand the complexities of senior living and strive to deliver a community where our residents can be social while staying safe. To hear more about our independent living community or to schedule a tour, please feel free to contact us.