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Social isolation and dementia

Jaded'n'faded

Registered User
Jan 23, 2019
3,428
0
High Peak
I just read this article from the University of Cambridge:


According to the article, social isolation can have a Big Impact, which is worrying! For many older people, a degree of social isolation is seemingly inevitable: death of a spouse/partner, limited mobility maybe, perhaps no longer driving and the limits that brings, even financial difficulties. All these things can impact social contact.

I'm also concerned for myself, as ever.... :)
I'm (only!) 62 and have lived alone for at least 15 years. I've never been very sociable and don't have friends locally. I spend most of my time at home. My kids live on the other side of the country - I rarely see them. None of us drive and I don't travel well. I do have a 'boyfriend' but he also lives 4 hours drive away. He visits every couple of weeks but is now ill so visits are decreasing. So using the criteria in the article above, I'd have to answer 'no' to all 3 questions :(

And yet, and yet... I am not lonely and I don't feel isolated! I'm in touch with friends via phone/internet, in fact if I'm honest, it's my preferred sort of contact. I communicate with others on a few forums, including this one. And I live with 4 cats - does that count? They take up a lot of my time, give me responsibility (and a reason to get up in the morning) and a whole lotta love. As they are siblings, they behave like a family...

But is this enough? I can't see myself ever volunteering at the local charity shop or joining a group of some sort.
 

jennifer1967

Registered User
Mar 15, 2020
12,726
0
Southampton
I just read this article from the University of Cambridge:


According to the article, social isolation can have a Big Impact, which is worrying! For many older people, a degree of social isolation is seemingly inevitable: death of a spouse/partner, limited mobility maybe, perhaps no longer driving and the limits that brings, even financial difficulties. All these things can impact social contact.

I'm also concerned for myself, as ever.... :)
I'm (only!) 62 and have lived alone for at least 15 years. I've never been very sociable and don't have friends locally. I spend most of my time at home. My kids live on the other side of the country - I rarely see them. None of us drive and I don't travel well. I do have a 'boyfriend' but he also lives 4 hours drive away. He visits every couple of weeks but is now ill so visits are decreasing. So using the criteria in the article above, I'd have to answer 'no' to all 3 questions :(

And yet, and yet... I am not lonely and I don't feel isolated! I'm in touch with friends via phone/internet, in fact if I'm honest, it's my preferred sort of contact. I communicate with others on a few forums, including this one. And I live with 4 cats - does that count? They take up a lot of my time, give me responsibility (and a reason to get up in the morning) and a whole lotta love. As they are siblings, they behave like a family...

But is this enough? I can't see myself ever volunteering at the local charity shop or joining a group of some sort.
i think that its when you dont choose social isolation such as a spouse dying. you can be lonely and socially alone in a crowded room. you are in touch with friends, forums and have 4 cats so mentally you arent socially isolated. pets are like children in that they have to be looked after and loved. physically, you spend little time socially but mentally you are very busy. if we listened to every thing thats is written about how to prevent or lessen the chances of an illness, we wouldnt live or just live in the now but live as though a disaster is going to happen every minute. my thinking is that if you are going to suffer with something, then theres really not a lot you can do and would take the enjoyment out of life if you were constantly worrying about the future
 

Violet Jane

Registered User
Aug 23, 2021
898
0
I'm sceptical about this. As we see on this forum, many, many people who develop dementia live with spouses, partners and adult children. If someone lives alone his/her dementia symptoms may become apparent earlier because there is nobody to compensate for his/her cognitive deficits and s/he struggles to cope with the demands of daily life. Again as we've seen on this forum, some spouses / partners 'hide' their PWD's dementia from other family members and friends in various ways and for various reasons in the early stages with the result that the family members and friends are not aware that there is anything wrong. For example, the couple might start to socialise less or 'odd' behaviour might be explained away as 'Mum's a bit down at the moment; her arthritis is playing her up' or 'Dad's finding it hard to adapt to retirement; he's become a grumpy old man'.
 

Grannie G

Volunteer Moderator
Apr 3, 2006
76,326
0
Kent
But is this enough? I

If you are relatively contented @Jaded'n'faded it is enough.

Life will never be perfect for anyone and it`s all about weighing up the pros and cons and ignoring what is considered `normal`. I don`t believe there is a normal.

I have lived alone for 12 years. I have tried all sorts of groups, and they have all been found wanting. They are either cliquish or I have little in common with the people I meet.

The best groups for me are my Tai Chi and Meditation Groups, probably because I`m with people of a like philosophy and there is no need for social chit chat.

I do have regular face to face contact with my son which I value. We have some good discussions and are on the same wavelength. Other than that I just get on with what life has given me.

I never think of dementia in relation to myself. If it comes, it comes but I will not meet it half way.

My one envy is the ability to drive. I do think it gives a level of independence which would have improved the quality of my life. I failed my eye test for drivers aged 17 so there really is no point dwelling on that.

All I can say is I`m never bored and rarely lonely. If I ever feel lonely it passes within minutes because the alternatives on hand are not what I want.
 

Jaded'n'faded

Registered User
Jan 23, 2019
3,428
0
High Peak
I'm sceptical about this. As we see on this forum, many, many people who develop dementia live with spouses, partners and adult children. If someone lives alone his/her dementia symptoms may become apparent earlier because there is nobody to compensate for his/her cognitive deficits and s/he struggles to cope with the demands of daily life. Again as we've seen on this forum, some spouses / partners 'hide' their PWD's dementia from other family members and friends in various ways and for various reasons in the early stages with the result that the family members and friends are not aware that there is anything wrong. For example, the couple might start to socialise less or 'odd' behaviour might be explained away as 'Mum's a bit down at the moment; her arthritis is playing her up' or 'Dad's finding it hard to adapt to retirement; he's become a grumpy old man'.
Good points. I agree it's probably more subtle than simply social isolation. I recall my mum in the years before she was diagnosed. Outwardly she was not socially isolated - she went out at least twice a week, taking a bus to the coast or some shopping place she liked. She had neighbours and said hello to all of them... though she secretly hated each and every one! But that was very much her personality. Once in her house though, she'd just sit and read and sometimes didn't speak to anyone for days. More importantly, I think, she stopped taking an interest in anything outside her own little life. Maybe that's the key? Or was that an early sign of her dementia?

I think it's all a bit 'chicken and egg'. Dementia does seem to lead to a person becoming more isolated, they stay home more, lose interest in activities and previous hobbies, stop seeing people because they are afraid of being discovered or just don't have the confidence anymore. So maybe a person who is becoming noticeably more isolated socially may already have dementia. Who knows.

I do have my own theories. (Bet you knew I would!) Although I think so-called brain training exercises are a bit naff, I do think maintaining your critical thinking skills is really important. Learning new things is vital, whether that's new information, a new skill or hobby, meeting new people. It doesn't really matter what - it's all about something new. As we get older, we do less and less in the way of new things, relying instead on what we already know. This can actually start a long time before we get old! Example: how many people do you know who only like the music they grew up with and haven't listened to anything new for years? A small thing maybe and no real harm in it but... Back in my online dating days following my divorce 20 years ago, a recall seeing so many profiles that said they only liked Motown or listed their musical interests with nothing less than 20 years old - I always saw this as a red flag. I found many guys in their 40s and early 50s already seemed to be in grandad mode. It's generally said that dementia starts many years before it actually shows and I wonder if it's because we stop doing 'new' things. That seems to be what stimulates our brains the most.

OK, I'm just musing now so I'll shut up :)
 

cobden 28

Registered User
Dec 15, 2017
133
0
My Mum (91) has Alhzeimers and is socially isolated. None of her relatives live in the same city, all her frinds from her younger days are either dead or in nursing homes, my stepdad died nearly 20 years ago and Mum is no lonnger able to drive. I tried to persuade her after my stepdad's death to move to a retirement community where there's be help in emergencies and people her own age for company and conversation, but she has determinedly refused to do any of this and moving to a different city to be nearer to me, her NOK, is out of the question because she would have to sort and pack nearly 50 years of memories from where she lives now.

Mum coulkd have done so much years ago to prevent her from being so socially isolated now but she has consistently refused to consider moving. I'm now an OSAP myself and don't drive so can seldom get to see her. Mum complains of being lonely and not seeing anyone or having any visitors, but some of it is, I feel, her fault for not doing anything sooner.

Is there anything I could do to help her, I wonder?
 

northumbrian_k

Volunteer Host
Mar 2, 2017
2,458
0
Newcastle
When I saw the title I thought that this might be about the social isolation caused by dementia - both for the person and their carer - rather than that social isolation may be a contributory factor to developing dementia. On the latter, there may be something in it. For me, the social isolation of being my wife's sole carer was a major issue that may well have affected my ability to provide the care she needed. I can't say too often how important Talking Point was in helping me through the most difficult times. That and getting a one day a week carer/befriender allowed me to reconnect with life outside the confines of caring. Lovely Knight the greyhound helped too.

Now, aged 67, I am happy living on my own, free to visit my wife when I want to and able to engage with others through cycling, chance conversations with dog lovers, and various online interests. Not isolated except when I choose to be, I haven't given a thought about my chances of developing dementia or anything else.
 

Lawson58

Registered User
Aug 1, 2014
2,897
0
Victoria, Australia
Good points. I agree it's probably more subtle than simply social isolation. I recall my mum in the years before she was diagnosed. Outwardly she was not socially isolated - she went out at least twice a week, taking a bus to the coast or some shopping place she liked. She had neighbours and said hello to all of them... though she secretly hated each and every one! But that was very much her personality. Once in her house though, she'd just sit and read and sometimes didn't speak to anyone for days. More importantly, I think, she stopped taking an interest in anything outside her own little life. Maybe that's the key? Or was that an early sign of her dementia?

I think it's all a bit 'chicken and egg'. Dementia does seem to lead to a person becoming more isolated, they stay home more, lose interest in activities and previous hobbies, stop seeing people because they are afraid of being discovered or just don't have the confidence anymore. So maybe a person who is becoming noticeably more isolated socially may already have dementia. Who knows.

I do have my own theories. (Bet you knew I would!) Although I think so-called brain training exercises are a bit naff, I do think maintaining your critical thinking skills is really important. Learning new things is vital, whether that's new information, a new skill or hobby, meeting new people. It doesn't really matter what - it's all about something new. As we get older, we do less and less in the way of new things, relying instead on what we already know. This can actually start a long time before we get old! Example: how many people do you know who only like the music they grew up with and haven't listened to anything new for years? A small thing maybe and no real harm in it but... Back in my online dating days following my divorce 20 years ago, a recall seeing so many profiles that said they only liked Motown or listed their musical interests with nothing less than 20 years old - I always saw this as a red flag. I found many guys in their 40s and early 50s already seemed to be in grandad mode. It's generally said that dementia starts many years before it actually shows and I wonder if it's because we stop doing 'new' things. That seems to be what stimulates our brains the most.

OK, I'm just musing now so I'll shut up :)
My husband has played bridge for many years and he would go to his club or another regularly. He loved going to congresses which would be a weekend stay over or a day in a nearby town or in Melbourne so he had a lot of social interaction until COVID.

But then he discovered online bridge and still plays a lot with friends or sometimes with people from interstate that he has never met. He has always enjoyed meeting people until he became I’ll and then he finds that he gets very tired having to maintain conversation.

I am a bit with you about training the brain exercises because there is no real way of knowing what the effect of them is. And I have CDs from artists that most people have never heard of and frequently ditch discs that I don’t listen to them anymore.

I have been a volunteer with an environmental group for many years and the people are great friends. We do have a bit of easy chit chat about what we have been doing but we all love our morning coffee discussions. None of us is religious so that doesn’t rate a mention but that dreaded topic of politics is something that is freely discussed. They have been my lifeline over the years. I am not cut out to be a volunteer in a charity shop or a knitting group so when I went looking for a volunteer group, I was determined that it should be something that I loved, not just for something to do.

I often wonder if isolation can be also interpreted as lack of purpose in life, not having something to get up for in the morning. And it doesn’t matter what floats your boat, just have something else important in your life that is about you and not someone else.
 

Bakerst

Registered User
Mar 4, 2022
181
0
Don't know about that theory OH had his own business, was in constant contact with others all day every day
All I know is that I would love a day of isolation 😊, a day of complete silence that I could have all to myself..how selfish is that?
 

Jaded'n'faded

Registered User
Jan 23, 2019
3,428
0
High Peak
I often wonder if isolation can be also interpreted as lack of purpose in life, not having something to get up for in the morning. And it doesn’t matter what floats your boat, just have something else important in your life that is about you and not someone else.
They say everyone needs 3 things to make them happy:
1. Something to do ( a job, a purpose in life, a garden that needs attention - anything!)
2. Someone (or something, e.g. a pet!) to love
2. Something to look forward to...

I have the cats and my garden - they help me fulfill the above and make me happy