13 November 2018

Hearing loss contributes to isolation and loneliness among seniors

A Canadian study shows that seniors benefit from social activities. But hearing loss prevents seniors from joining social activities.

Seniors with trouble hearing are at greater risk of social isolation and loneliness because of their hearing impairment, a Canadian study finds.

Hearing loss isolates

A community-based program in Canada called “Walk n’ Talk for your Life” was created to provide activities to reduce loneliness and social isolation and improve physical functioning among seniors. Researchers examined how participation in this program affected the participants’ experiences of loneliness and social isolation.

The study found that socialisation through the program reduced the participants’ feeling of loneliness and helped them socialise. Professor and researcher of the study, Dr. Charlotte A. Jones, pointed out that hearing loss was one of the reasons why some of the seniors did not attend to the program.

“You can just imagine not being able to catch the punchline on a joke or not hearing everything said and responding inappropriately. People start to shy away from social interactions and social events and eventually become isolated and lonely,” said Dr. Jones.

Dr. Jones also stated that social isolation and loneliness increase the risk of dementia, depression and decreased fitness. Therefore, according to the study, programs like “Walk n’ Talk for your Life” can improve health and social well-being for seniors. However, it is important that these programs also are suited to meet the needs of participants with hearing loss.

About the study

The examined program “Walk n’ Talk for your Life” was a 12-week program at local community centres and seniors’ residence buildings in Kelowna, Canada including over 200 participants. The program, which was free of charge to participants, consisted of sessions twice a week with focus on socialisation in addition to maintaining or improving functional fitness among participants. The study consisted of 16 individual semi-structured interviews.

Sources: ”Loneliness and social isolation among older adults in a community exercise program: a qualitative study” published in Aging and Mental health in Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, March 2018 and www.cbc.ca

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