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Loneliness in Seniors Statistics (2023): Combating Social Isolation

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Loneliness affects people of all ages, including seniors. Our new, nationwide survey of seniors 65 and older in the U.S. discovered 57% of older adults feel lonely and for many, this feeling doesn’t go away during the holiday season.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, social isolation and loneliness can lead to serious public health risks for the elderly, including an increased risk of dementia and premature death. With that in mind, our report identifies why seniors experience loneliness and ways to combat it.

Table of Contents:

  1. Seniors and Loneliness During the Holidays
  2. How Many Seniors Experience Isolation and Loneliness?
  3. Combating Loneliness & Isolation in Seniors
  4. How Seniors Can Combat Loneliness by Working

Seniors and Loneliness During the Holidays

Top holidays seniors see their families and holiday loneliness survey statistics - study from MedicareFAQ.com

The holidays are a joyful time. For many, it’s a moment to reflect on the past year and enjoy time with friends and family. But sadly, 44% of seniors experience loneliness during the holidays.

While the majority of seniors will see their friends and families over the holidays, a quarter of American seniors will not.

One survey respondent, a 72-year-old man from California reported, “I don’t see my family and haven’t heard from them in over 10 years.”

For the 27% of seniors who won’t see family over the holidays, they will be connecting in different ways. The majority of seniors will connect with their families over the phone or by text.

David Haas, our Chief Technology Officer, who isn’t a native in the state where he lives, has a no-brainer solution to curb loneliness. “I always find time for a quick FaceTime or video chat with the family. This way, we can all feel connected, even if only for a few minutes a day.”

He goes on to acknowledge, “Seniors may not intuitively gravitate towards technology, but with access to a smart phone and a little confidence boost, a video chat is the easiest way to bring some joy to their lives. Whether it be catching up with an old friend or watching their grandchildren open presents on Christmas morning, my recommendation for any senior feeling lonely this holiday season is to bring the family together through tech.”

An overwhelming number of seniors who see their family members during the holiday say they enjoy visiting with them (95%).

Top Holidays Seniors Visit with Family

  • Thanksgiving: 75%
  • Christmas Day: 72%
  • Christmas Eve: 48%
  • New Year’s Day: 27%
  • New Year’s Eve: 23%
  • Black Friday: 10%
  • Hanukkah: 5%

How Many Seniors Experience Isolation and Loneliness?

ow Often Seniors Feel Lonely and Causes of Loneliness - study from MedicareFAQ.com

According to our report, 57% of seniors feel lonely. Seniors who are divorced or widowed have a higher rate of loneliness (63%), but even those in relationships feel lonely. More than half of married seniors (53%) and seniors in a relationship (50%) reported experiencing loneliness.

When broken down by living arrangement, seniors that live alone have the highest rates of loneliness, but even those who live with a partner or family feel lonely.

As we age, loneliness can lead to mental health complications such as depression, anxiety, or in some cases, more severe mental health complications. Fortunately, there are several great mental health services available to seniors.

As Ashlee Zareczny our Medicare Educator explains, “after being enrolled for 12 months Medicare covers an annual wellness check. This would be a good opportunity for you to discuss any mental health concerns you have with your doctor. Then you can figure out the best course of action together.”

Services such as counseling and therapy are covered under Medicare Part B. Ashlee also points out, “Medicare offers a host of other coverage to help safeguard your mental health. These include one depression screening a year, individual and group psychotherapy, and other services such as psychiatric evaluations, so if you need some help, there are people who care. You’re not alone.”

When combined with Medicare Supplement plans, such as Medicare Supplement Plan G, many of the out-of-pocket costs related to mental health services are covered. Leaving you at no cost for these services and making it a great option, especially during the holiday season when loneliness can be at its peak for many seniors.

Seniors Experiencing Loneliness, by Living Arrangement:

  • Live alone: 68%
  • Communal living arrangement: 64%
  • With a partner: 53%
  • With family members, no partner: 51%
  • With partner and family members: 47%

When asked how often they feel lonely, one in ten seniors said they feel lonely every day. 40% said a few times a month and 26% said a few times a week.

There are many complex reasons for feeling lonely. One in three seniors reported distance from family and friends as the primary cause of their loneliness. 75% of seniors who have a family wish they saw their family more, and 66% often feel forgotten about by their family.

Lack of social opportunities and the loss of a loved one or partner were also listed as the main factors that contribute to loneliness.

One survey respondent, a 76-year-old man from Georgia said, “I am the last living member of my family. My best friend of 55 years passed away in September and I miss him every day.”

Combating Loneliness & Isolation in Seniors

Top 5 Activities Seniors do to Fight Loneliness - study from MedicareFAQ.com

Lack of social opportunities and not being able to spend time with loved ones and friends are top contributors to loneliness among seniors, and building new relationships isn’t easy. Sixty percent of seniors said it’s challenging to meet new people at their age.

The top way to alleviate loneliness among seniors is spending time with family and friends. Another wonderful way seniors feel less alone is through pet ownership.

Top Activities to Help Seniors Combat Loneliness

  • Spending time with friends or family: 58%
  • Pet ownership: 43%
  • Hiking and walking: 42%
  • Cooking: 36%
  • Work: 34%

Getting out and doing activities and hobbies helps greatly.

“It is not uncommon to speak with an individual who may not have many friends or family members around to help them stay active. In these cases, I always recommend walking groups or gyms geared towards seniors.”

Joe Medina, a Senior Agent at MedicareFAQ states, “Gym programs such as SilverSneakers may be available through your healthcare plan, so I highly encourage seniors to explore their options and take advantage of what is available to them. Not only will these programs promote physical health, but mental health as well.”

How Seniors Can Combat Loneliness by Working

Top 5 Reasons Seniors Work - study from MedicareFAQ.com 

Work is another way seniors can alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness. 44% of seniors work, with the majority working part-time.

While money is the top reason seniors work, jobs provide other beneficial opportunities, including a sense of purpose and a way to alleviate boredom. Another top reason is the ability to socialize at work. More than half of seniors who work say their job provides them with social opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Isolation and loneliness among senior citizens are a pressing concern that demands our immediate attention and thoughtful intervention. It’s important to take time to connect with the seniors in your life, especially during the holiday season when many feel lonelier.

Methodology: MedicareFAQ is an educational resource for seniors who are new to Medicare or who wish to make a change to their coverage. At MedicareFAQ, we can help determine your options by comparing Medicare Supplement plans, reviewing Medicare Advantage plans, and helping you understand how each plan type can affect your coverage. In November of 2023, we surveyed 640 senior citizens about their experience with loneliness, especially during the holiday season. Respondents were 61% female, and 39% male, with an age range of 65 to 99 and an average age of 70 years old.

For media inquiries, contact Press@medicarefaq.com.

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Sources:

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  1. Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed December 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/lonely-older-adults.html 

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