New Initiative Targets Social Isolation In Older Americans


A new campaign is highlighting social isolation amongst older Americans and the health detriments that often accompany this loneliness.

The AARP Foundation and National Association of Area Agencies are teaming up for the new project to raise awareness about the growing issue of loneliness and social isolation that affects millions of older Americans. The AARP reports that one in five adults over age 50 (8 million Americans) are affected by social isolation and that this prolonged loneliness can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Some of the risks for isolation include:

-Living alone

-Mobility and sensory impairment

-Major life transitions or losses

-Psychological or cognitive challenges

-Transportation barriers

-Limited financial resources

The top risk factor is living alone. With 29 percent of people over age 65 living alone, and almost 50 percent of women over age 75 living alone, millions of older adults could be at risk for isolation. Research from the University of California San Francisco has reported that “older adults who describe themselves as lonely have a 59 percent greater risk of functional decline and a 45 percent greater risk of death.”

So what can you do to be more in contact with others?

Find an outlet: Whether it’s a painting class, knitting groups or attending a concert, think about the things that interest you and look for available resources in your community.

Make leaving the house a priority: Even if it’s just to run errands or sit in a coffee shop, simply being around others can be immensely helpful.

Schedule phone calls: Pick someone to speak with every day or two. Even if it’s just a brief catch-up session, it will keep you engaged and give you something to look forward to.

Online resources: If physical impairments make it difficult to leave the house, consider looking into online support groups or video conferencing sessions with others in similar predicaments.

Hire a caregiver: For those with greater financial means, a part-time or full-time caregiver will provide daily social contact and also take care of various needs that you may need help with.