Isolation is an experience of diminished social connectedness, measured by the quality, type, frequency and emotional satisfaction of social ties. Social isolation can seriously impact quality of life and physical, social and psychological health. Robert Putnam, a noted expert on the subject of isolation, explains it this way: "As a rough rule of thumb, if you belong to no groups but decide to join one, you cut your risk of dying over the next year in half."
Little comprehensive data exists to quantify or identify isolated individuals in the United States. However, one study estimates that anywhere from 2 to 20 percent of the 65-and-older population may be isolated and that as much as 35 percent of older adults in assisted-living arrangements are isolated. Applying the 20 percent estimate to the 40 million Americans over 65 in 2010 suggests that as many as 8 million may be experiencing the negative consequences of isolation.
Many of the naturally occurring changes that accompany the aging process - declining mobility, loss of loved ones, retirement and so on - increase the risk for isolation, while maintaining strong connections to one's family, friends and community, and a sense of purpose, help prevent isolation.
The foundation wishes to encourage innovations to reach potentially isolated low-income older people and to create and promote connections between them and their families, friends and communities.