Senior isolation can be a serious health hazard

Social isolation is a year-round problem for some seniors that can get even worse at this time of year. No one's around. No one calls or stops by to check on them.

"They can become more depressed and it can impact their cognitive abilities, so it's pretty serious,” said Jullie Gray with Seattle’s Aging Wisdom. “It’s just as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, being obese or even drinking too much."

Phone calls and letters are great, but Gray says face-to-face contact is really important.

"If you are someone who has neighbors that you haven't reached out to, go ahead and knock on the door and get to know them,” she suggests. “If you're at home and you're an older adult, think about volunteering or about knocking on your neighbor's doors.”

They key is for seniors who feel trapped at home to find something they’d want to do that can get them out of the house, if possible. Maybe volunteer at a school or community center. Maybe you can join a walking group or a book club, or go to the library and meet people.

“There's a lot to do and it's good for your health,” Gray said.

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