Social Isolation

Social isolation is a significant health risk.

Social isolation is more harmful to health than smoking 15 cigarettes per day. It can lead to chronic disease, disability, cognitive decline, and premature death.

Key Topics

Poverty

Rural seniors are more likely to live in poverty, making it difficult to afford to travel to and participate in social activities.

In-person relationships

The increased distances and lack of transportation options in rural areas can lead seniors to enjoy only limited human interaction.

Gender

Men tend to pass away earlier in life, putting their widows at substantial risk of social isolation.

Loved Ones

Many younger Americans are departing rural communities, leaving older family members behind without the traditional support structures.

Reversing social isolation by fostering personal interactions

A range of solutions can reconnect rural seniors to their communities and beyond.

Technology

Digital technologies can supplement in-person interactions, enabling older people to call, chat, and videoconference with distant family and friends, other seniors, healthcare providers, and support groups.

Lonely No More: Decreasing social isolation in rural seniors

The Lonely No More Project will strengthen and expand social connections of over 200 rural seniors by improving opportunities for participation in existing social support networks and building new social support networks using teleconference calls to facilitate elder circles of peer support.

Inspiring well-being through the arts

An arts colony helps seniors realize the power of creativity. They unleash their inner artist and, in the process, improve their mental and physical health.

Teaching seniors to stay connected

Technology allows seniors in cities, rural areas and everywhere in between to stay connected to each other and the world. The Technology Lab at Meadowlands YMCA is a great resource for learning how to use a computer, apps, and more.

Transportatoin

Solutions ranging from volunteer drivers to ride-share services and autonomous vehicles can improve older Americans’ access to community events and activities, friends and family, and healthcare and social services.

Connecting seniors with their transportation needs

Tivity Health partners with Senior Ride Nashville to connect volunteer drivers with elderly people who no longer drive. This service gives older adults the ability to get around town, foster relationships with community members, and maintain a vibrant mobile well-being.

Freedom Express gives seniors a lift—and a boost

The lack of public transportation in Wickenburg, Arizona left many of the town’s seniors feeling lonely, isolated, and in a bind when it came to doing errands. But thanks to a new train, all residents over 60 can get a free ride to doctor’s appointments shopping, and more.

Health Access

Telehealth and remote-care technologies can complement more on-site ppointments and treatments to better monitor and assist seniors in maintaining their health.

Rural Health in America: How Shifting Populations Leave People Behind

The National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation published new infographics on urbanization and the impact on rural America. People are leaving rural America for urban and suburban areas. Rural counties that gain in population are reclassified as urban. Only 20% of Americans live in rural areas, which accounts for 97% of the land mass.

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Route to Better Rural Health

Rural America is nearly all of America, reaching 97 percent of our land mass, but only one-fifth of our citizenship reside there, totaling around 60 million people. Rural Americans face greater disparities than those in urban and suburban America; therefore, the BPC developed a comprehensive list of “prescriptions” that serve as the roadmap to reinvent and better serve all rural Americans utilizing the rural healthcare system.

A life-saving connection for South Dakota seniors

For isolated and homebound seniors, it’s critical to have a 24/7 connection to the outside world. The Helpline Center of South Dakota answers the call by offering a Helpline Center staffed with trained Outreach Support Specialists.

LIFE program helps elder Pennsylvanians remain home

A Population Health Forum, hosted by the Jefferson College of Population Health, shed light on LIFE (Living Independence for the Elderly). This highly-effective population health model has helped thousands of American elders stay in the community for over 40 years.

Relationship Building

Community activities and spaces can be organized to provide an outlet for seniors seeking to build and sustain new relationships.

Lonely No More: Decreasing social isolation in rural seniors

The Lonely No More Project will strengthen and expand social connections of over 200 rural seniors by improving opportunities for participation in existing social support networks and building new social support networks using teleconference calls to facilitate elder circles of peer support.

Inspiring well-being through the arts

An arts colony helps seniors realize the power of creativity. They unleash their inner artist and, in the process, improve their mental and physical health.

Walking sparks connection and conversation for seniors

In honor of National Walking Day, the Blue Zones Project launched two weekly Wellness Walks. Sometimes referred to as “Moia,” the walking groups encourage fitness while also reducing social isolation.

Fostering senior well-being through Better Together

Almost half of seniors living in the Sioux Empire of North Dakota live alone, heightening the feeling of social isolation. The Better Together program matches volunteers with seniors to provide companionship and reduce feelings of loneliness.

Exploring the connection between physical activity and longevity

Today, living well into one’s 70s, 80s and beyond is no longer out of the ordinary. But to live well as we live longer requires a new way of thinking and changes in behavior. The MIT AgeLab partnered with Tivity Health to research how people’s physical activity affects their long-term quality of life.

Create a Memory Café with Free Tool Kit

Jewish Family & Children’s Services (JF&CS) has developed a tool kit to help individuals and communities launch “Memory Cafés.” These cafes provide a hub of social interaction and support for people living with Alzheimer’s and related disorders—and those who care for them.

Program promotes senior well-being

The Aging Mastery Program®(AMP) is focused on helping millions of seniors navigate their retirement years with greater stability, peace-of-mind, and connection to their communities. The AMP store offers a Starter Kit, informational materials, and more.

The measurable impact of senior fitness

When seniors stay active and fit, the benefits far exceed better health and well-being. In this report, SilverSneakers reveals how group exercise class attendees had $2,144 lower average healthcare costs compared to non-enrollees.

Keeping seniors connected to their communities

Staying connected to the community and the world is key to healthy aging. The Mission YMCA supports seniors in this mission by offering a range of programming, from a Healthy Aging Fair to free health screenings.