Are we becoming a Socially Isolated Society?

By Leigh Kelly RN AND
Managing Director, Care Advisory Services

One of the most important roles in being a parent is to ensure your children learn the skill of socialisation. These days it starts at Day Care level right through to kindergarten or play centre, school, sports, drama or other recreational activities. The skills learnt at a young age continue to support people throughout life. As people age the need to socialise is just as important. Lack of socialisation though sickness,social or environmental circumstances change, is very traumatic for a person.

Many older people have to face this reality especially after the loss of a spouse, friends and family through death, separation or relocation. This may be difficult for many young people do not understand.

The health system also seems to have little regard for the importance of socialisation in older people or more importantly, the implication of the lack of socialisation.

Social isolation is often the reason for multiple hospitals admissions, especially in older people.

Why?

Because when a person has only their own company for most of the day, having only their own thoughts or talk back to listen to, this can create sickness withint.

As far back as 1992 Carl Thoresen, from Stanford University discovered “How intimately people are linked with their fellow human beings in some cases may be a better predictor of heart disease survival than diet etc…..”

What concerns me, is more time and money is used looking after the financial and property needs of a person, protecting their wealth, than we do looking after their welfare.

The 3 PR Act (Personal Protection and Property Act) was set up to do this however, I don’t believe enough considerations is given to a persons welfare. At the end of the day, it is how we are looked after that more important, not how much money a person has or how much property they own.

I am not saying that it isn’t important to protect people’s wealth, of course it is, but often it is given more credence than a persons welfare.

What I do know, is after over 43 years of nursing, it doesn’t matter how much money a person has in the bank, or property they own, if there is no one to take a personal interest in them, then life is pretty empty. These are the people who are more at risk of becoming ill.

The predisposing factors that influence a person’s health status are illness or disability, personality styles, family connections, environmental factors.

“Socially isolated people die at the rate of two to three times the rate of people with a network of social relationships and sources of emotional support’ say E.Burnner in his article in the British Medical Journal 1997 titled Stress and the Biology of Inequality. Yet we still head down the path of keeping people at home without adequate services to combat social isolation.

So how do we overcome this problem?

Are we becoming too self absorbed as a nation?

Society needs to provide more attention to socialisation of older people than is currently being done now. It is not uncommon for people to not speak to a neighbour for days or weeks. So intent need to work for the dollar, the more important things in life, like our neighbours, have been forgotten. Maybe more heed should be taken to the words of Barbara Streisand’s song “People who have people, are the luckiest people in the world” is so true.

Many people talk about the wish to die but maybe it is “I am alone and have no-one to share my life with or care about me”. Let us return to the caring society we once were, in a different form.


 

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