How Does Isolation Happen?

Isolation, particularly for an older person, can happen either gradually or suddenly.


There are many factors that can contribute to becoming isolated, including:

  • Loss of family and friends. Many older adults outlive relatives and friends. Each loss reduces their support and social opportunities.


  • Increased health problems and mobility issues. As an older person’s overall health and ability to get around begin to deteriorate, social networks can diminish as well.


  • Financial pressures. Changes in work status, dependence on retirement benefits, and living on a fixed income can limit a person’s ability to afford things previously enjoyed, e.g. taking vacations, traveling, eating at restaurants, going to the movies or the theater.


  • Changes in living arrangements. When older people move to new living environments or live for the first time without a partner, their social networks and support systems are often affected. For some, not having familiar routines and contacts can cause them to retreat and spend most of their time alone.


  • Abuse by family members. Sometimes a relative can cause harmphysically, financially, or emotionally—and want to keep the older person isolated from others so that no one finds out, leaving the older person vulnerable to further harm.


What is Social and Emotional Isolation?

How Can I Tell If I Am Isolated?

How Does Isolation Happen?

What Can I Do to Reduce or Eliminate Isolation?


This resource provides brief, general information about this topic. It does not take the place of specific instructions you may receive from health care or service providers. Copyright NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital 2006. All rights reserved