Nurse Next Door: Reduce seniors isolation to reduce risk

Did you hear the story of an elderly man who died after falling in his home?

Did you hear the story of an elderly man who died after falling in his home?

The man who fell was discovered barely alive by a concerned caregiver, who noticed a week’s worth of newspapers piling up on his front door. After spending an entire week on the floor, this 81-year-old man died in the hospital.

Social isolation in seniors is being called “the new smoking” because research is proving that social isolation increases risks of physical illness, emotional challenges such as anxiety and depression, and premature death. More than one in seven Canadians are over the age of 65, and in 25 years, nearly one in four Canadians will be a senior.

Risk factors for social isolation are: living alone; being age 80 or over; having compromised health status; experiencing multiple chronic health problems; having no children, or little or no contact with family; difficulty accessing transportation; low income; experiencing a critical life transition e.g.: retirement, death of a spouse or loved one, and being a caregiver. No one single risk factor on its own is likely to create an environment whereby risk is high. However, it’s not difficult for one risk factor to snowball along with others.

In a 2015 study entitled Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality, the increased chance of premature death was 26 per cent for loneliness, 29 per cent for social isolation, and 32 per cent for living alone. These statistics are alarming. We can all help.

To help combat social isolation, the government has stepped up and helped fund new programming aimed at reducing social isolation.

“Seniors Connect” is a new community project in the central island (centred in Nanaimo) aimed at reducing social isolation in seniors locally. Partner organizations are providing programs and services for seniors, raising public awareness about social isolation, and encouraging action to promote social inclusion of seniors in the community.

If you have concerns about an isolated or lonely senior in Cowichan, contact VIHA’s Central Inquiry line at 1-877-734-4101. Alternately, contact the Cowichan Seniors Community Foundation at 250-715-6481, or visit Cowichan

Together, we can keep an eye out for our neighbours and fellow community members who are isolated or lonely.

Chris Wilkinson is the owner/GM for Nurse Next Door Home Care Services for Cowichan and central Vancouver Island. For more info visit or for questions or a free in-home Caring Consult call 250-748-4357, or email

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