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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.

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Isolation in the

Training Elderly in Social Media Improves Well-Being and Combats Isolation

(Medical Xpress, Dec. 2014) Training older people in the use of social media improves cognitive capacity, increases a sense of self-competence and could have a beneficial overall impact on mental health and well-being. Read

Blog: 20 Facts About Senior Isolation That Will Stun You

(, Oct. 2014) - Feelings of loneliness and isolation can lead to serious consequences for senior health. Understanding the causes and risk factors for senior isolation can help us prevent it. Read

Seniors Share Homes for Cost Saving, Companionship

(ABC News, July 2014) - Thousands of aging Americans take part in home-sharing programs that allow seniors to stay in their homes and save money while getting some much-needed companionship. Read

Study: Internet Usage Lowers Rates of Depresssion Among Older Adults

(WP, May 2014) - The Washington Post reports a new study on the affect of Internet usage on the emotional state of adults over 50 years old found that rates of depression were lower among those who regularly browse the Web. Read