Social Isolation as a Barrier to Healthy Aging

Keeping older people socially connected and active has become the number one emerging issue facing seniors in Canada, finds a 2012 report from the International Federation of Aging.

Social isolation can be twice as deadly as obesity; it’s as big a killer as diabetes; and it hikes the risk of dementia by 64 percent, concludes André Picard in All the Lonely People, UC Observer, June 2016.

A 2014 National Seniors Council Report on the Social Isolation of Seniors determined that older Canadians are at increased risk for social isolation when:

  • Living alone;
  • Being age 80 or older;
  • Having compromised health status, including having multiple chronic health problems;
  • Having no children or contact with family;
  • Lacking access to transportation;
  • Living with low income;
  • Changing family structures, younger people migrating for work and leaving seniors behind, and location of residence (e.g. urban, rural and remote); and
  • Critical life transitions (e.g. retirement).

The negative impact that social isolation has on individuals and communities is well documented. Social isolation can lead to elder abuse, reduced social skills, and poor mental and physical health.

Overcoming these barriers can be complex, requiring a coordinated approach from a variety of community organizations and services – to identify vulnerable, isolated seniors and support them to make connections with others in their community.

You can learn more about Social Isolation in seniors below:

  1. National Seniors Council, Report on the Social Isolation of Seniors: https://www.canada.ca/en/national-seniors-council/programs/publications-reports/2014/social-isolation-seniors.  
  2. RTO/ERO Foundation Grant Recipient: Hamilton Seniors Social Isolation Project http://socialisolation.ca/research/
  3. All the Lonely People, Andre Picard, The Observer: http://www.ucobserver.org/society/2016/06/lonely_people/.
  4. National Seniors Strategy: http://nationalseniorsstrategy.ca/.

The RTO/ERO Foundation has also endorsed the RISE Campaign, to help Canadians of all ages, cultures and regions become aware of the impact of loneliness and social isolation on their older family members, friends and neighbours - and to take action. 

Learn more about it at http://rise-cisa.ca/.