Beyond the Shadows: Unveiling the Diversity Among Older Adults and Their Struggle Against Social Isolation.

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Posted Jan 8th, 2024

In Canada, nearly seven million citizens are aged sixty-five and above. Astonishingly, sixteen percent of this demographic, approximately 1.1 million individuals, experience isolation to some degree, while an additional 1.2 million grapple with feelings of exclusion. In collaboration with the Government of Canada, the National Seniors Council (NSC) has identified nine distinct groups of seniors facing heightened risks of social isolation compared to their peers:
1. Indigenous Seniors: Ongoing colonial violence exacerbates risk factors for social isolation among Indigenous seniors. Intergenerational trauma and marginalization increase their vulnerability to exclusion and invisibility.
2. Seniors Who Are Caregivers: Spousal caregivers, witnessing their partner's health decline, are at an increased risk of diminished social support and loneliness. Stressors such as depression and financial difficulties amplify feelings of alienation.
3. Immigrant Seniors: Approximately 4.5 million Canadian seniors identified as immigrants in 2011. A 2015 study revealed that immigrant seniors, on average, experience greater loneliness than their Canadian-born counterparts, often due to structural barriers such as limited access to resources in their native language.
4. LGBT Seniors: Discrimination in relationships and services contributes to heightened levels of social isolation among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender seniors.
5. Seniors Living Alone: Structural factors increase the likelihood of social isolation for seniors living alone, with older women being disproportionately affected. Further research is required to understand the unique risk factors contributing to their feelings of invisibility.
6. Seniors Living in Rural and Remote Areas: Limited access to resources, compounded by a lack of research comparing urban and rural seniors, underscores the challenges faced by seniors in remote areas. Ethnicity and gender also play roles in feelings of exclusion and invisibility.
7. Low-Income Seniors and Those Living in Poverty: Poverty significantly heightens social isolation among seniors, especially in public long-term care facilities. Initiatives promoting age-friendly communities can mitigate feelings of loneliness and invisibility.
8. Seniors with Mental Health Challenges: Mental health challenges affect up to 90% of seniors in institutions. The stigma surrounding mental illness amplifies social isolation, perpetuating a cycle of mental health challenges.
9. Seniors with Physical Health Challenges: The societal pressure for seniors to 'age well' places undue strain on the 45% facing physical impairments. Stigma and stereotyping contribute to feelings of exclusion and invisibility among seniors with chronic illnesses or disabilities.
It's time to cast a spotlight on the diverse experiences of older adults and address the specific challenges faced by these nine vulnerable groups in our society.

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