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ALTOONA, Iowa — There’s an epidemic hitting our senior citizens, loneliness.

According to an USCF study, more than 40 percent of people 65 years or older experience isolation regularly. Experts say that chronic loneliness can lead to some serious health consequences. It can put senior citizens at a higher risk for things like dementia, high blood pressure, and even early death.

Social contacts tend to decrease as we age, whether it’s because of things like retirement, death of friends and family, or even lack of mobility. They can take a heavy toll on our nation’s seniors adding to this feeling of loneliness, but there are ways caregivers and family members can help. It’s as simple as visiting them more often or encouraging them to participate in activities, even if that means accompanying them.

Prairie Vista Village, a senior living community in Altoona, said this is a serious issue. That’s why they have a handful of activities to try and get their residents out and socializing daily.

“Calling them, having them come out and bake cookies with them, go Christmas shopping, watch Christmas movies,” Makenzie Appleton, Director of Marketing said. “We do a lot of activities here within our community that the family members can come here and do things like Christmas dinner with them. We had our Christmas party, holiday open house that they were able to attend. So we just encourage families, even if they don’t live here, to definitely reach out to their loved ones and do things with them.”

The holidays are an important time to think about things like this, but Appleton said it’s really something that affects the elderly all year long.