HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - According to recent research, Mississippi has the highest risk of people 65 years and older experiencing social isolation.
WDAM spoke with a local educator about why Mississippi is leading the research.
“The population of older adults as you know is exploding. We call it the silver tsunami now because so many of us baby boomers are turning 60 and 65,” said Susan Hrostowski, an associate professor for the University of Southern Mississippi School of Social Work.
The research from Databank USA attributed Mississippi’s ranking to a high poverty rate.
“Earnings across the life span come to roost in your retirement, because if you haven’t earned a lot as you have worked you haven’t put that much into retirement and your social security is not very high," Hrostowski said. "So, right away we are talking about limited and moderate to low income for a lot of older adults.”
This is magnified by a lack of transportation in our rural state.
“So if you live in more of a rural area, then you will have less public transportation options available to you," Hrostowski said. "And as we age, we have maybe issues with eye sight or other issues that may limit our ability to drive.”
Hrostowski said this takes away the mobility in people aging, which can be very disappointing.
“You know, also the rural issue means there are not many things close by," Hrostowski said. “So often there is nothing within walking distance. So those two things right away you can start to see where that affects a person’s social isolation.”
Hrostowski said it's important for the young and those advancing in age to have a circle of friends and a close support system.
“One of the things that happens when we get into advanced older age is, well, people start to die," said Hrostowski. "So, we have some of our friends die, our spouses die, our children have moved away, so many people find themselves to be socially isolated.”
Social isolation is one of the leading causes for depression later in life so, Hrostowski said getting involved and being active can create a positive environment curbing social isolation.
“The solution is programming. We need programs, services and activities for well older adults," Hrostowski said. “It’s very important. If you know older adults and you see they are isolated and don’t have many people coming to visit them you don’t have to invest all your time and energy, just every once in a while send them a card, say hello, bake them a cookie. Just once in a while. It’s a wonderful thing. It makes you feel good as well as the older person.”
The state with the lowest risk of social isolation for people 65 years and older is Utah.