Physical and mental risks senior face when living alone in India
In India, it is quite common for seniors to live alone. In fact, in 2014, there were nearly 15 million elderly living alone in India and a more recent survey with a sample size of 10,000 elders reported around 23.44% living alone. All this data indicate that there is good amount of our senior citizen population staying by themselves, and this can be challenging in myriad ways. To know why, read about the common risks seniors face when living alone.
Eating well and eating right is an important part of healthy living, but this can be quite a challenge for anyone living alone. With an elderly living alone, problems like malnutrition are only worsened because maintaining a healthy diet requires effort. For senior citizens, the quickest and easiest choice is usually the go-to and when it comes to nutrition, this is a recipe for trouble.
With age, the body’s reliance on proper nutrition increases, and an elder living alone may not be able to take care of themselves as well as they could when they were younger. Low-effort meals such as sandwiches or bottled juices aren’t healthy alternatives to fresh vegetables and fruit as a part of a balanced diet. Moreover, seniors also need to consume the right heart and mind friendly foods to stay in the pink of health. For an elderly living alone in India without house help, going to the market to procure these may also pose a problem.
Social isolation and loneliness
Living alone is one among the causes of social isolation in elderly and it has very serious health issues linked to it, be it depression, anxiety, cognitive decline or more. Elders need to stay socially connected in order to maintain their mental wellbeing. Studies have found that isolation is about as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and social isolated people have a 26% increased chance of an early death. However, social isolation is very different from loneliness, even though they are related.
Socially isolated elders are those that never visit anyone, have no telephone, don’t maintain contact with neighbours, have no close relatives and never leave the home. On the other hand, lonely elders are those that don’t meet enough people, want more friends, don’t see enough of their relatives of friends, and have no real confidant. Loneliness has dangerous side effects on mental health as a study suggest that lonely elders have a 64% higher chance of developing dementia.
A particularly common risk elders face when living alone is that they’re more prone to injury. As the body ages, issues like muscle weakness, declining eyesight and loss of balance are quite common and these increase the chances of getting injured. While there are simple ways that seniors can prevent falls, an injury when they’re alone can be particularly challenging because there’s no one to offer assistance at once in case of emergencies.
Unhygienic living conditions
It is common knowledge that elders have reduced mobility and this continues to decrease with age. A side effect of reduced mobility is that everyday tasks become a lot more difficult to perform an elderly living alone in India may just stop doing them altogether. For instance, cleaning the house as a whole, or the kitchen and bathroom in specific, becomes a lot tougher. Without proper cleaning, harmful bacteria and dust start to settle and these cause more health problems. Further, a cluttered and unclean house is a pool of potential trip hazards, which can be a cause of bodily injury. Besides these, an unhygienic household also affects mental wellbeing. Unclean homes can be harder to relax in and can be a source of unhappiness.
Improper medical care
Elders living alone in India often overlook important symptoms of disease or disorders and dismiss them as ‘just another sign of old age’. This is very harmful and may leads to improper medical care. The is particularly relevant for elders at risk of developing some form of dementia as the early signs can be very easily overlooked or forgotten. Regular check-ups with medical professionals can be a lifesaver in this case.
All of these risks are very real and relevant even in a modern household with or without part-time help. Thankfully, families can avail the services of a senior citizen caretaker or a specialised attendant for elderly persons living alone. However, sometimes the expense of 24/7 care or lack of supervision by a family members comes in the way of proper care.
(Adapted from www. https://heritagehealthcareindia.com/blog/post/physical-and-mental-risks-senior-face-when-living-alone-india)