The Hidden Epidemic of Social Isolation

I have taken a variety of personality tests and assessments. In each one, I score high on the introvert scale. I am one where the social engagement scale starts on full when I get up in the morning. Then some point before I go to bed the tank is empty, and I need some alone time to fill the social reservoir back to full. Therefore, the prospect of retirement is attractive because I will have greater control over who I choose to engage with or visit. That can be a blessing and a curse in post-career life.

According to a report from the National Academics of Sciences, more than one-third of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely. The study also highlights nearly 25% who are 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated. That means today there are some 14 million people in the United States alone who lack basic interaction with other people. As the population grows older, this number is bound to increase. You probably do not have to go out far from your house to find a neighbor that spends most of their days…alone.

Typical Factors Leading to Isolation

Each case is unique and there are a variety of factors leading to social isolation. Unless you have a purposeful plan to live a quiet and remote lifestyle off the grid, here are some circumstances that lead to unplanned seclusion.

  • Retirement. Yes, retirement will lead to a loss of social connections, as people no longer have the same opportunities to interact with colleagues and friends since work is not in the picture.
  • Loneliness. It can be caused by a variety of factors, the death of a spouse or loved one, separation from family, or living alone.
  • Health problems. Health problems can make it difficult for older adults to get out and about.
  • Transportation challenges. If older adults don’t have access to transportation, it can be difficult for them to get to social activities or appointments.
  • Financial difficulties. If the retirement plan does not have enough flexibility, it might limit what you are able to do later on in life.
  • Living alone. The Pew Research Center notes that 27% of adults 60 and older live alone.
  • Disability. Older adults with disabilities may have difficulty getting around or participating in social activities. The CDC notes 36% of people ages 65 and above report at least one disability.
  • Aging in place. 77% of adults who choose to age in their homes may be more isolated than those who move to a retirement community or assisted living facility.
  • Ageism. Ageism is discrimination based on age. It can lead to older adults being excluded from social activities and opportunities.

Anyone of these can lead to increased risks in depression, anxiety, reduced cognitive abilities, physical health problems, and the risk of early death.

Planning to Minimize Isolation

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you go back and take a look at the list, you can see that most of us will be impacted by more than one of those factors. It is why I am passionate about people creating a lifestyle plan that takes into account the need for social interaction. Consider the following possibilities.

  • Designing a robust goal planning strategy that starts with a life purpose statement through short-term goals.
  • Conduct a social network audit now and decide what relationships you want to invest time and nurture so they will be there well into the future.
  • Challenge where you will live with a long-term residence plan. What works today, may not work 10 or 15 years from now.
  • Anticipate the lifestyle you want to lead by incorporating the social element.
  • Love your family and do whatever you can to maintain those relationships.

As an introvert, I know I am going to have to work harder than others to remain socially committed. The easy way for me is to tell myself I enjoy being alone and the freedom that brings. I have a wonderful wife to help me. However, I can’t just rely on her for the burden of keeping me engaged. A well-planned post-career lifestyle strategy will provide the opportunity for me to own the responsibility to not become isolated.

Want to understand more?

If you need more assistance in planning a robust lifestyle plan, here are a few ways I’d like to help.

Take the Retirement Time Analysis (RTA) and get a complimentary summary assessment.

Book a virtual coffee with me and let’s discuss your situation.

Take the Social Network Audit and understand the time you need to invest to keep those close relationships.

Get to know more about me and why I do what I do. Hi, I am Dave…

Join me on Thursday May 4, 2023, for the LinkedIn Audio Event where we will discuss the factors and steps you can take to reduce the chances that you will be impacted by social isolation.

12:00pm EST, 4:00pm GMT, 6:00pm CET, 9:30pm IST

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