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7 Things to Know About Isolation

It's more than 'just' a feeling and can be as bad for your health as smoking

Living Alone Is a Factor

5. People are more likely to suffer from isolation when they live alone (PDF), and the number of people age 65 and over who do so is rising. In 2000, 25 percent of those 65-plus lived in one-person households; in 2010, that had increased to 40 percent.

6. Among people ages 50 to 95, LGBT adults are at greater risk for social isolation (PDF). They are more likely to live alone than heterosexuals, which may lead to less social support and financial security. This is a problem particularly for 60-plus gay men, who lost many of their friends to the AIDs epidemic. The LGBT community also has a history of being discriminated against and victimized: 21 percent said they were fired from a job because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, 13 percent said their sexual orientation resulted in inferior health care or being turned away for services, and four out of 10 had considered suicide.

Transportation Is Essential

7. Having available, cheap transportation is critical to connect with other people and avoid isolation. Although life expectancy exceeds safe driving expectancy after age 70 by about six years for men and 10 years for women, few of us plan ahead to a time when driving is no longer possible. People living in places without adequate public transportation are much less likely to see friends, visit their doctors, go to the grocery store and take part in community activities.

AARP Foundation and Isolation

Right now, no other organization is taking a comprehensive look at isolation and how it affects an individual's entire well-being. So AARP Foundation is stepping up by pioneering a research project to help us understand how people 50-plus get onto a pathway to isolation. There are many causes — and the reasons that lead a 57-year-old to be isolated may be radically different from those of an 81-year-old. We need to get a better picture of those who are isolated and how they got there. AARP Foundation will use this research as a starting point, looking at all the ways we can strengthen or repair the broken connections that lead to isolation.

To do this work and help win back opportunity for millions of struggling older adults, AARP Foundation relies on your donations. Please consider making a gift to the Foundation today.

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