The health care system is an untapped resource in combating social isolation and loneliness in older adults
Health Affairs Blog
Last Christmas, Carrie, a grandmother from Tulsa, Oklahoma, advertised on Craigslist for a family with whom to celebrate the holiday. She even offered to bring presents and cook for her hosts. While Carrie’s outreach tactics might be unusual, the loneliness and social isolation that drove her actions are not.
A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (National Academies), sponsored by AARP Foundation, finds that roughly a quarter of those ages 65 and older are socially isolated, meaning they have an objective lack of social contact with others. More than one-third of those 45 and older are lonely, defined as having a subjective feeling of being isolated. With the spread of COVID-19, social isolation and loneliness will undoubtedly worsen, and those who are low-income, older, sick, or have disabilities will be the hardest hit. The National Academies report also found that social isolation and loneliness can be compounded for LGBTQ, minority, and immigrant older adults, who may already encounter barriers to care, stigma, or discrimination.
Blazer DG, Ryerson LM. The health care system is an untapped resource in combating social isolation and loneliness in older adults. Health Affairs Blog; April 30, 2020. Available online.