Are you content with your friends and relationships? Are your relationships as satisfying as you want them to be? Or do you have enough people in your life who you’d feel comfortable calling anytime to ask for help?
These three questions comprise part of just one of several tools that can be used to measure loneliness — which, for older adults, is a risk factor for a number of physical and mental health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, and even premature death.
And thanks to the ways in which our lives have changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of loneliness seem to have risen sharply in adults over 50. In a poll conducted by University of Michigan researchers between March and June 2020, 56 percent of respondents said they sometimes or often felt isolated from others — more than double the proportion that did so in a similar survey carried out two years earlier.
That said, there are things you can do to help foster new social connections, and strengthen existing bonds.
Thank-you to the interviewees who generously made time to speak with me for the piece:
- Vickie Cammack, co-founder of the Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network.
- Dr. Amy Freedman, a staff family physician and physician lead with the SMHAFT (St. Michael’s Academic Family Health Team) Home Visiting Team, and an assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto.
- Laura Moore, a therapist with the Toronto Centre for Interpersonal Relationships Associates.
- Dr. Adriana Shnall, program director of Baycrest@Home, at Toronto’s Baycrest Health Sciences.