Older adults who are socially isolated tend to perform worse on tests of thinking abilities
Physical pain is unpleasant, yet it’s vital for survival because it’s a warning that your body is in danger. It tells you to take your hand off a hot burner or to see a doctor about discomfort in your chest. Pain reminds us all that we need to take care of ourselves. Feeling lonely is the social equivalent to feeling physical pain. It even triggers the same pathways in the brain that are involved in processing emotional responses to physical pain. Just like feeling physical pain, feeling lonely and disconnected from others is also a signal that we need to take care of ourselves by seeking the safety and comfort of companionship. As scholars at the Center for Healthy Aging at Penn State, we study the impact of stress on the aging body and brain, including how it can worsen cognitive decline and risk for dementia. The health consequences of loneliness The COVID-19 pandemic has put many older adults’ social lives on hold, leaving them at greater risk for loneliness.
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