Utah’s Elderly Face The Reality of Living Alone
My wife said something to me the other day that really caught me off guard. She had our little dog in her lap and said, “you know, this dog could out live both of us.”
This is not typical for the kinds of things my wife would say, but the reality is, she may be correct. More to the point, as we continue through our senior years, the prospect looms closer that one of us will be left on our own.
I'm not trying to be morbid here, but these are the situations that we face as we age. According to sixtyandme.com 15.8% of the population of the state are over 60 and 7.2% of seniors over 65 are living alone here in Utah. According to Senior Care.com 44,145 seniors are still in the workforce and 72% of the seniors living alone are female.
Seniors living solo is a common and complex reality in our society. Many older individuals choose to maintain their independence and live on their own as they age.
While this decision allows them to enjoy autonomy and freedom, it also brings about unique challenges and considerations.
In March of this year the Utah Council of Aging issued a report on Social Isolation, and in the report said that you can live alone and not feel lonely or socially isolated and that you can feel lonely even while being with other people. In the report they quote U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy calling
"social isolation a public health crisis greater than cancer or heart disease."
According to the Utah Council on Aging, research has found links between loneliness and premature death and established that isolation is a more powerful predictor of adverse health outcomes than obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and air pollution.
Isolated adults are less able to take care of themselves and are at high risk during emergencies. The National Council on Aging estimates that almost 1 in 5 adults over age 65 would be considered "isolated."
It is critical to address this trend by identifying older adults at risk and offering personal connections and emotional bonds.
Regular check-ins from family members, friends, or neighbors are essential for seniors living alone. These check-ins not only provide a sense of connection but also help identify any potential issues or changes in health or living conditions. They offer an opportunity for social interaction and support.
Another significant issue faced by seniors living alone is their health and safety. As they age, they may be more vulnerable to health emergencies, accidents, or falls. Having a plan in place for emergencies becomes crucial, ensuring access to emergency contacts and medical information.
Personal emergency response systems or wearable devices can be invaluable in alerting authorities or loved ones during emergencies.
Adapting the living environment is also vital for seniors living alone. Home modifications, such as installing grab bars, improving lighting, and removing tripping hazards, can significantly enhance safety and accessibility. These modifications promote independent living and reduce the risk of accidents or injuries.
Daily living assistance is often necessary for seniors living alone. Some individuals may require help with cooking, cleaning, medication management, or transportation.
Services like home health aides, meal delivery programs, housekeeping services, and specialized transportation for seniors can provide the necessary support to ensure their well-being and independence.
Professional support services can be instrumental in addressing the unique needs of seniors living alone. Geriatric care managers or social workers can assess their needs, coordinate healthcare services, provide guidance on available resources, and advocate on their behalf.
Communities often offer resources specifically designed for seniors. The Cedar City Senior Center offers a full variety of activities including crafts, learning classes, recreation and fitness. They also offer “home cooked style” lunch prepared by a professional staff.
The state of Utah also has Aging and Adult services available through the Utah Department of Health.
Ultimately, the decision to live alone as a senior is deeply personal.
It's essential to assess individual needs, challenges, and preferences to ensure safety, well-being, and quality of life. By addressing the various aspects of living alone, seniors can continue to enjoy independence while receiving the necessary support and care they need.