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Study Links Dementia Risk and Loneliness

Two elderly hands resting on a knee

Is your parent at risk for dementia? Because dementia is so common, it may be a concern as your parent gets older. Currently, 5.7 million people in the U.S. live with Alzheimer’s disease – which is the main cause of dementia. Furthermore, there are studies that link dementia risk and loneliness.

Dementia refers to a variety of memory loss issues or changes in the way the brain works. And, these changes have a large impact on daily living. We don’t know all of the causes of dementia. However, many studies have shed light on the factors that affect risk.

While every case is unique, common risk factors include age, diet, lack of exercise, obesity, and diabetes. More recently, studies have shown social factors have an effect as well. For example, feeling lonely or isolated can put your aging parent at a higher risk.

A Higher Chance of Dementia

In 2018, The Journals of Gerontology published a new study on loneliness and dementia. While other studies had looked at the link between the two, the study was one of the largest of its kind. During a period of 10 years, researchers followed 12,000 people to evaluate dementia risk.

In the beginning, people answered questions about loneliness, their genetic factors, and other social behaviors. Researchers then followed them to see if any signs of dementia developed later on. In the end, the study linked feelings of loneliness with a 40 percent higher risk of dementia. These results stayed true no matter the person’s gender, race, education, or ethnicity.

Most importantly, the study points out that loneliness is a risk factor that can be altered. Unlike age or genetics, seniors can make changes to prevent feeling lonely. For children of aging parents, it also shows the importance of asking mom or dad if he or she feels connected.

Prevent Loneliness in Seniors

If you want to help prevent feelings of loneliness, start by talking with your aging parent. When it comes to social contact, each person has their own unique needs. Talk with your parent about his or her interests, activities, and friends. Then, ask if you can do anything to help mom or dad socially.

Frequently, the location of a person’s home affects feeling lonely. If your parent lives alone, doesn’t drive, or doesn’t have loved ones nearby, consider how to prevent isolation. It not only reduces the risk of dementia but helps their overall health.

For many, living in an assisted living community provides chances to engage socially. From sharing meals to learning new hobbies, your aging parent will meet others who have similar interests. Also, simply having daily contact with others will help your loved one feel more connected.

Help to Stay Social

At Walnut Place, we offer a variety of activities to keep our residents connected. To find out more, see our calendar of upcoming events.