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Jane E. Brody writes about her own experiences with loneliness, as well as current research on the topic on NYtimes.com.

A Sobering Look at the Health Effects of Loneliness

Posted May 17, 2013

MOWSF Blog | Senior Issues

Jane E. Brody writes about her own experiences with loneliness, as well as current research on the topic on NYtimes.com.

Jane E. Brody writes about her own experiences with loneliness, as well as current research on the topic on NYtimes.com.

Study after study shows that loneliness can have serious mental and physical health effects, from promoting overeating to hastening the onset of dementia in the elderly. The latter population is the subject of a special investigation for the Archives of Internal Medicine. “Loneliness is a common source of distress, suffering, and impaired quality of life in older persons,” concludes the report, “Loneliness in Older Persons: A Predictor of Functional Decline and Death,” which examined the relationship between loneliness, decline and death in American adults ages 60 and older.

A recent post on NYtimes.com also discussed the negative health effects associated with loneliness. Though it covered individuals of all ages, the section on how it effects the elderly was particularly grim:

It’s not surprising that loneliness has also been linked to cognitive decline. A Dutch study published last year in The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry found that participants who reported feeling lonely — regardless of how many friends and family surrounded them — were more likely to develop dementia than those who lived on their own but were not lonely.

The nearly 2,200 participants, ages 65 to 86, were followed for three years and had shown no signs of dementia at the study’s start. About half lived alone, and 20 percent reported feeling lonely. After adjusting for other factors that are linked to cognitive decline, like age, feeling lonely was linked to a 64 percent increase in the risk of developing dementia, according to Tjalling Jan Holwerda of the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam.

via Shaking Off Loneliness – NYTimes.com.

At MOWSF, we see lonely seniors every day. Sometimes our meal delivery drivers are the only people these folks will see all day, and many tell us that this interaction is something they look forward to. Because of this, MOWSF has a safety check program. If a client doesn’t respond to the knock at the door or a phone call, we notify their emergency contacts. Sometimes a client has simply forgotten to tell us that they’ll be out for a doctor’s appointment or visiting a friend. But other times a client may have been incapacitated and in need of medical attention.

Video about meal delivery

Click to watch a video about MOWSF home-delivered meals.

In addition to ensuring daily interactions via meal delivery, we also seek to foster friendships through our companionship volunteer programs. Friendly Visitor and Grocery Shopper volunteers meet with clients a few times a month. Whether they choose to put together a puzzle, go for a walk around the block or chat while unpacking groceries, these small interactions can mean so much in the life of a homebound senior.

For more information about our programs for seniors, visit www.mowsf.org/programs-services. To learn more about becoming a companion volunteer, go to www.mowsf.org/volunteer/volunteer-with-clients.

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