Donate

Be part of the solution.

Help AARP Foundation win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50 and over.

Charity Rating

AARP Foundation earns high rating for accountability from a leading charity evaluator. Read

 

Supporter
Spotlight

Every year AARP Foundation helps millions of struggling Americans 50+ win back opportunity. We could do nothing, however, without the individuals and institutions that so generously shared their resources with us.

 

Connect with the
Foundation

Email:

foundation@aarp.org

 

Toll-free Nationwide:

888-OUR-AARP

(888-687-2277)

 

Toll-free TTY:

877-434-7598

 

AARP Foundation Tax ID

52-0794300

Health Effects of Social Isolation

Lisa Berkman on how isolation affects our aging society — and how to reduce it

(Use the scroll bar at the right side of the video playlist to see all video titles and descriptions.)

 

In this set of videos, Lisa Berkman, director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, discusses the health effects of social isolation. Her research shows that isolated people, especially older adults, have higher health risks. Mortality risk is about three times as high for isolated people — those who are not married, have few friends or relatives, or do not belong to a voluntary or religious organization — compared with those who have more sources of social contacts.

See also: 7 things to know about isolation.

Berkman says there are lots of possible solutions to isolation, but the two most important areas to reform are large pieces of our societal framework: housing and workplaces. She recommends designing housing with attention to what older people need; the result will be communities that benefit everyone. For example, including accessible sidewalks in urban design is good for older people, but it also makes it easier for many others to get around, including parents with strollers, kids on bicycles and the disabled.

Changing how work is organized will also be critical, especially when it comes to retirement and part-time work. She notes that the United States has few family-friendly work policies compared with other industrialized nations. Providing workers with more flexibility would help increase social connectedness.

The issue of isolation will become more urgent as American society gets older. Lower birth rates and longer life expectancies mean the United States will soon have more people over age 65 than under age 15. In order to remain successful, Berkman argues, society must plan for what older people will need.

Several organizations, including AARP, advocate for livable communities and flexible workplaces. However, AARP Foundation is the only organization taking a comprehensive look at isolation and how it affects an individual's entire well-being. We're pioneering research to help us understand how people 50-plus get onto a pathway to isolation — and how to help them get off that pathway. 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.

Also of interest: Why do some seniors feel isolated?

Featured
Programs & Services

Caregiving Resource Center

Resources, tools and tips to help you manage the care of a loved one. Go

grandmother with her two grandaughters

AARP Benefits QuickLink

See if you qualify for public assistance and you can save money on health care, medication, food, utilities, and more! Go

Isolation Grants Program

View a list of the current grantees, along with summaries of their programs. Read

Isolation in the
News

Documentary Details Challenges Facing LGBT Seniors Seeking Care

(Ventura County Star, Calif., Jan. 15) - "Gen Silent" follows the stories of six LGBT seniors needing care but afraid, for various reasons, to ask for help. The documentary mentions how AARP and other organizations are offering help, such as providing information on LGBT-friendly care and other resources. Read

Old, Frail and in Harm's Way

(N.Y. Times, Nov. 5) - In a major disaster like Hurricane Sandy, the frail elderly often need more than the help of family and friends. Read