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Think you know AARP? What you don't know about us may surprise you. Discover all the 'Real Possibilities'

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Social Isolation: Effects and Solutions

Life coach Richard Leider discusses why many feel isolated — and how a purpose could help them

People can feel isolated at any age and are often most vulnerable if they are going through a transition period: job loss, career change, retirement, caregiving, divorce, moving, illness. During these times, social connections can break, resulting in isolation.

See also: Why do some seniors feel isolated?

Older adults are more susceptible to isolation for a variety of reasons. Many retire from work and lose connections with colleagues. Four out of every 10 people age 65 and over live by themselves, and those who live alone are more likely to experience isolation. Some older adults no longer drive; if public transportation is not available, they don't get out as often.

In this set of video interviews, Richard Leider, founder and chairman of the Inventure Group, argues that isolation is a growing problem in society, because more people are experiencing a triggering event or transition. He describes a paradox: In some ways — through links such as social media — our society is more connected than ever, but at the same time, it's also more disconnected than ever. Facebook friends make short, brief connections, but don't have deep conversations. Studies show that one out of four people doesn't have someone in his life with whom he can talk.

Leider offers solutions to isolation, including the "power of purpose" — essentially, having a reason to get up in the morning. A purpose keeps people active and creates a "helper's high," the glow that comes from making a contribution and serving others.

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 path. 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: 2012 Isolation Impact Area Grant Awards.

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