Facts and Stats
How many people are deemed elderly?
- The United States Census Bureau defines anyone 65 years or older as “elderly” (“The Next Four”). The Census Bureau also estimates that by 2029 our country will have 71 million people over the age of 65 as Baby Boomers reach elder status (Barr). This means that our country’s population will change significantly as 20% or “nearly one in five U.S. residents will be aged 65 or older by the year 2030” (“The Next Four”).
What is the current risk rate for dementia?
- “The Alzheimer’s Society calculates that 1 in 1000 people under 65 develop dementia. However, this figure rises significantly to 1 in 50 people between the ages of 65 and 70 and 1 in 5 people over the age of 80” (Nicholls). With the Census Bureau’s life expectancy currently set at 78.11 years and the size of the elderly population increasing rapidly, the United States has a huge population of people currently facing or at risk for dementia (“Table”).
What is dementia? What causes it? Is it curable?
- Dementia is defined as “the loss of mental functions such as thinking, memory, and reasoning that is severe enough to interfere with a person’s daily functioning” (“Alzheimer’s”). What many people fail to realize is that dementia itself is a certain set of symptoms rather than a disease. It is also important to note that in about 20% of all cases dementia is curable (“Alzheimer’s”). Although Alzheimer’s, a disease in which brain tissue gradually breaks down, is most commonly the source of the problem, there are other, treatable causes such as a lack of certain nutrients (“Understanding”; “Alzheimer’s”).
What is social detachment? Why does it occur?
- Social detachment is “a state in which the individual lacks a sense of belonging socially, lacks engagement with others, has a minimal number of social contacts, and is deficient in fulfilling quality relationships” (Nicholson). Surprisingly, it is estimated that 43% of older adults experience feelings of social detachment (Nicholson). Often times, social detachment occurs because the physical and sensory changes the elderly undergo complicate communication and can lead to strained relationships or social withdrawal. What many people are not aware of is how detrimental this phenomenon can be to an elderly person’s health.
What are the negative side effects associated with social detachment?
- A socially detached person has higher disease rates, a weakened immune system, and a mortality risk three times as high as that of a socially connected person (“Health”). Reports show that a socially detached person is “4 to 5 times more likely to be re-hospitalized within one year of original admittance” (Nicholson). This is significant because an elderly person requires one week of recovery for each day spent in bed (Fukuda).
How can I ensure my elderly loved one doesn’t experience social detachment?
- After learning the negative effects of social detachment, the obvious dilemma is how to prevent this from happening with your elderly loved one. Because social detachment can be a perceived state as well as a physical state, you can never truly ensure your loved one won’t suffer from it. However, there are preventative steps you can take. It is important to keep in mind that social detachment is a psychological problem which depends on the quality of relationships rather than the quantity of relationships. (Nicholson). In other words, spending a lot of time with your loved one, but talking over her rather than to her – puts her at risk. The best way to help your loved one is not only to increase the time you spend together, but to make the time you spend together engaging and valuable. In the remainder of this website, I have included ideas for starting and sustaining a meaningful conversation with your loved one. Feel free to try them and see what works best for you!