Illinois Aging Network Alert
June 19, 2020

ISSUE: Social Isolation and Loneliness Among Seniors in Their Homes During This Pandemic

As stay-at-home recommendations continue in many cities across the country, and social distancing becomes our only way of interacting, the focus on social isolation and loneliness is becoming part of the new normal. Seniors are socially isolated and unable to connect with family and loved ones. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), these conditions have increased the risk for certain physical and mental health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and more.

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) points out that more than one-third of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely, and nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated.1 Older adults are at increased risk for loneliness and social isolation because they are more likely to face factors such as living alone, the loss of family or friends, chronic illness, and hearing loss.

Recent studies found that:

  • Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.1
  • Social isolation was associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia.1
  • Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) was associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.1

According to a Chicago Tribune article, older adults report added anxiety tied to recent lootings which has exacerbated the effects of social isolation.

Area Agencies on Aging have established a variety of programs to address social isolation among older Illinoisans.  These programs have proved effective and are needed now more than ever. 

Our Ask:  Illinois lawmakers must continue to support Area Agencies on Aging serving vulnerable isolated older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic.

1 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Today’s I4A Alert courtesy of Central Illinois Agency on Aging.  For more information, contact Susan C. Real at 309-829-2065 ext. 1218

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