Giving Compass’ Take:
• Social isolation is a growing health risk, especially for the baby boomer population who are getting older and have medical conditions that require care and attention that they are not receiving.
• How can more healthcare organizations find cheaper and accessible ways for our aging population to receive care?
• Read about the research on the increase in social isolation over loneliness in the United States.
Robin Overlock worries about Elizabeth Brown. That’s his job.
The retired paramedic checks in frequently with Brown, 94, who lives in the same farmhouse in rural Maine where she’s lived since 1940, where she raised sheep and her four children as well as cared for her own mother for the last two decades of her life. The white clapboards have weathered to gray and the barn, the sheep long gone, is beginning to collapse in on itself.
Congestive heart failure and a stroke, plus other consequences of aging, have left Brown housebound and largely confined to a recliner, watching TV to pass the time or talking by phone with friends or her oldest son, who lives about 100 miles away and has health issues of his own. Brown hasn’t seen her son in more than a year, she said; her other children are dead or estranged. Overlock, who works for a small startup that helps low-income seniors stay in their homes, has become the person in her life who monitors her swollen legs for infection.
Overlock is part of a vanguard of health care workers tackling what researchers say is a growing health risk: social isolation. Researchers increasingly are convinced that living alone and losing contact with family and friends can be as much a threat to people’s health as more physiological factors, like high blood pressure or obesity.
Baby boomers, who had fewer children than previous generations, are living longer, often with chronic diseases that can reduce their mobility. Family networks that traditionally cared for older generations are more dispersed or have unraveled altogether. The trend is already acute in rural regions like those in Maine hard hit by the collapse of the paper industry and other manufacturing losses, where young people continue to leave for jobs to the South.
Read the full article about rural aging by Chelsea Conaboy from Politics, Policy, Political News
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