An important facet of elder law is determining how your potential long-term care needs will be addressed. While many people consider long-term financial needs, few consider long-term emotional needs. As a University of California study reports, feelings of isolation and loneliness in senior citizens may cause a deterioration of their physical health. In extreme cases, these feelings may also cause premature death.
Previous research has documented the physical risks of loneliness and isolation among senior citizens. In 2008, researchers at the University of Chicago revealed that the risk factor of chronic loneliness is akin to that of smoking, obesity, and lack of exercise. The researchers discovered that some of the physical effects of loneliness include high blood pressure as well as high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Moreover, loneliness suppresses the immune system and actually increases the risk of heart disease.
The overarching lesson from this research is that it is critical to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness among senior citizens. Not only will reducing isolation will cause a direct health benefit to senior citizens, but it will also benefit those individuals who deal with the fallout that isolation causes. Family members, health care workers, and communities in general can benefit from steps taken to reduce isolation and therefore improve the health of senior citizens.