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Loneliness, Isolation Take Toll on NH Residents Over 50

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A global survey found 85% of respondents, all over age 50, felt lonely in 2020, up from 75% of respondents in 2019. (Rido/Adobe Stock)
A global survey found 85% of respondents, all over age 50, felt lonely in 2020, up from 75% of respondents in 2019. (Rido/Adobe Stock)
December 21, 2020

CONCORD, N.H. -- Loneliness and social isolation are taking a toll on older folks this winter in New Hampshire.

A global survey from SixtyandMe.com found 85% of respondents, nearly all over the age of 50, felt lonely in 2020, up from 75% in 2019.

And almost 80% of people surveyed said the pandemic has amplified those feelings of alienation. Other factors included not having a partner or spouse, living alone or not having many friends.

Todd Fahey, state director for AARP New Hampshire, said as the Granite State is one of the oldest and coldest states in the nation, it's crucial to ensure residents have the support they need.

"People are staying indoors more because of the colder weather," Fahey observed. "And certainly, because they're being told to, for fear of contracting COVID-19. So for sure, this is probably the perfect storm of social isolation."

AARP recommends older Americans make a plan with nearby family or friends both to regularly stay in touch, and to know who to call if they need help accessing food, medicine or medical supplies.

For some people, pets can help combat loneliness and in some cases have even been linked to owners' longevity.

Fahey pointed out COVID has made a serious issue even worse.

He noted research shows loneliness and isolation can have a profound impact on people's health. It can be linked to a greater likelihood of accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function, stroke and depression in adults 50 or older.

Fahey urged New Hampshirites, particularly younger people, to help find ways to stay in touch.

"They could find a way to connect or show older folks how to use their technology to connect," Fahey suggested. "Maybe just go old school, make a phone call, that's okay too. Maybe write a note or a special letter or a postcard."

Fahey divulged some AARP volunteers he's spoken to say reading the newspaper is the biggest way they connect with what's happening in the world. He said you can't underestimate how fundamental interaction with others is, and how adverse for a person's health social isolation can be.

Disclosure: AARP New Hampshire contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Health Issues, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Lily Bohlke, Public News Service - NH