Social Isolation of Older Adults

As the population of older adults in this country grows exponentially, so do the challenges of healthy aging. One such challenge is social isolation —defined as a lack of contact with friends, family members, neighbors, and society at large (Berg & Cassells, 1992). Social isolation is recognized as a public health crisis threatening the health and wellbeing of millions of older adults —and the dilemma demands increased attention to resolve it.

Social isolation can have adverse effects on an older adult such as poor health, diminished security, cognitive decline, depression, low life satisfaction, and mortality. It is well established from a variety of studies that becoming disconnected from one’s family, friends, and community places an older person in jeopardy of unfortunate outcomes (Courtin & Knapp, 2017). Some caution that social isolation may be more dangerous to a person’s life than smoking or obesity. Therefore, practices encouraging social relationships are imperative for improving an older adult’s quality of life and survival. Humans thrive when their needs are fulfilled. When core social needs are not satisfied, a person's wellbeing suffers. Perception of place, community, belonging, and attachment positively contributes to an aging adult's identity and outlook on life.

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 Dr. Tracie Lux, DSW, LCSW, CLC