Aging and Loneliness


If you are planning to age in place, have you considered how you will combat loneliness? A recent study conducted by Cornell and published inPsychology and Aging explores the adverse effects of loneliness on health and aging. According to the study, loneliness produces changes in the body that mimic the aging process and increase the risk of heart disease.

Researchers measured cardiovascular reactivity and recovery in 91 young adults (aged 18 to 30) and 91 older adults (aged 65 to 80) who were asked to give a speech and do mental arithmetic in a lab setting. They assessed each person’s level of loneliness before the tasks, and took systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurements before, during, and after the tasks. Lead author Anthony Ong distinguishes between the temporary pains of acute loneliness, which can motivate us to create or repair our social connections, and chronic loneliness that is more likely to cause health problems over time.

Universal Design (UD) is an approach to design that increases the potential for developing a better quality of life for a wide range of individuals. It is a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation (Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012). It creates products, systems, and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation.