by Michelle Sandsmark
“Feeling alone and being lonely are things all of us have experienced. Yet there is a kind of loneliness that cuts even deeper than feeling alone. Social isolation.” says Kim Samuel, President of the Samuel Family Foundation, “…the lack of meaningful relationships and human contact and connections is a devastating affliction, with impacts ranging from depression to accelerated aging and the risk of early death.”
Social isolation and loneliness are prevalent across all ages, but is more common amongst older adults, which can have a strong impact on one’s quality-of-life. Older adults are more vulnerable to become isolated or lonely when they lose a partner or friends, experience a negative health ailment, leave the workforce, or move to a new community (among other events).
Having weak social connections is as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is worse for our health than being obese.
We constantly hear that physical activity and eating a balanced diet are essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but a daily dose of social connectedness is being recognized more than ever as an integral factor for positive personal well-being.
Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad and her team analyzed data of more than three million people from studies that included information on loneliness, social isolation and living alone. This research found that these three factors increased a person's risk of premature death by 26%, 29% and 32%, respectively.
"The effect of this is comparable to obesity, something that public health takes very seriously," Holt-Lunstad said, "We need to start taking our social relationships more seriously."
Here are some examples of innovative projects and programs to improve social connectedness amongst older adults:
If you are looking for funding to support a project to reduce or prevent isolation amongst seniors, visit the New Horizons for Seniors Program page for opportunities.
Find out more about how local governments can support social connectedness in communities on planh.ca.
 Tidy, Colin, (2013). Social Isolation - How to Help Patients be Less Lonely. Retrieved from: