Cross-Sector Collaborations To Decrease Loneliness and Social Isolation In Older Adults

Loneliness—the subjective feeling of being isolated, being left out, and lacking companionship—and social isolation—an objective measure of social networks and social connection—are growing public health epidemics among older Americans. Loneliness and social isolation have enormous health consequences, frequently contributing to worsening chronic disease burden, depression and anxiety, functional and cognitive decline, and even premature death. Among Medicare beneficiaries alone, social isolation is the source of $6.7 billion in additional health care costs annually. Preventing and addressing loneliness and social isolation, therefore, are critically important goals for health care systems, communities, and national policy. To be effective, interventions must account for the complex factors contributing to loneliness and social isolation, as well as the unique features that characterize each individual’s resources and needs. 
Beyond Social Isolation—The Loneliness Paradox
To contribute to our understanding of the national epidemic of loneliness, in October 2018, the University of Michigan National Poll on Aging collected survey data from a nationally representative sample of 2,035 respondents older than age 50. The survey found that 34 percent of adults age 50–80 felt a lack of companionship, and 27 percent felt isolated from others during the past year. The poll findings are consistent with a growing body of research that suggests about 30–40 percent of US older adults feel lonely–a proportion that amounts to tens of millions of people nationwide.
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