Polls Show Loneliness has Risen by Almost 50% in Older Adults During the Pandemic

In The News Sep 15, 2020

-Neighbors, Healthy Habits, and Technology Can Help Keep Loneliness at Bay

Engagement is essential to fight Loneliness!

Senior living has been drastically changing in the last couple of months. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about nursing homes, assisted living, or senior activities — engagement for seniors has been cut, limited, and almost obsolete.

Nursing homes have been hit particularly hard.

According to an article in the New York Times, “At least 28,100 residents and workers have died from the coronavirus at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for older adults in the United States. . . . The virus so far has infected more than 153,000 at some 7,700 facilities.”

The engagement situation doesn’t look much different for the senior community in general. While many seniors used to participate in YMCA activities, local book clubs, church groups, and other activities, suddenly many found their lives drastically altered. While many classes, religious services, and groups moved online, often there was limited support specifically for seniors to understand how to effectively participate.

For many seniors whether at home or in care institutions, they no longer face only the dangers of the coronavirus, but are at risk for a more deadly disease that will find them where they are — loneliness.

Prior to the Pandemic, 47% of Americans Lacked Meaningful Social Interactions

The global health service company Cigna (NYSE: CI) partnered with Ipsos research firm released results from a national survey that explored the impact on loneliness in the US before coronavirus hit.

According to the research, “Only around half of Americans (53 percent) have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.”

Now with social distancing measures, social interactions have decreased even for social Americans.

Douglas Nemecek, M.D., chief medical officer for Behavioral Health at Cigna said, “These results clearly point to the benefits meaningful in-person connections can have on loneliness, including those in the workplace and the one that takes place in your doctor’s office as a part of the annual checkup. While one solution won’t stop this growing public health issue, we’ve started to make changes to our business to help our clients and others to tackle loneliness and realize their vitality.”

A study done by the University of Michigan found that with the pandemic older adults are feeling lonelier than before.

Key findings from the National Poll on Healthy Aging poll on loneliness among older adults in the COVID-19 era CREDIT: University of Michigan

Loneliness isn’t Ignorable, Especially in the Older Population.

Louise C.Hawkley’s research on loneliness found that it “can wreak havoc on an individual’s physical, mental and cognitive health.”

Hawkley notes evidence that links perceived social isolation with health problems such as depression, poor sleep quality, impaired executive function, accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function, and impaired immunity.

In addition, a 2019 study “analyzed data from more than 580,000 adults and found that social isolation increases the risk of premature death from every cause for every race.”

Social isolation and loneliness can lead to premature death so it is essential to ensure that older adults are staying engaged!

GetSetUp offers learning and socialization opportunities specifically geared towards those 50 and over. Guides, who are reskilled educators over 50, teach their peers skills around using technology, apps, and other topics for engaging conversation, learning, and socialization. Classes are online via live interactive sessions, so they easily replace some group activities for those with limited social mobility and isolation measures in place.

Learning is also a benefit. It not only increases cognitive functions, which helps to reduce Alzheimer’s, but the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation cites numerous tools to help keep dementia at bay such as learning, staying connected, and exercise. GetSetUp helps seniors access these resources from inside their homes.

Customizing Engagement

Staying connected, including virtually, can help to promote social interaction and decrease loneliness in older adults. CREDIT: University of Michigan

Senior living centers, area agencies on aging, and community centers can put together customized bundles of classes available just to their members to ensure members are engaged, connected, and not letting the silent disease of loneliness creep in.

How have community centers been using GetSetUp to combat loneliness?

  1. Offer GetSetUp’s learning community and opportunities for its members. MoveOn along with many other organizations list GetSetUp as a resource specifically for seniors searching for help during Covid-19.
  2. Customized classes either for one time events or ongoing to help keep your community engaged. For example, Purple Patch created a one-time seminar as a special event (Episode 113: Performance and Resilience for the Mature 50+ Crowd) hosted by Matt of Purple Patch in conjunction with GetSetup. It centered around resilience and human performance for those who are 50+ with insights on health (for non-athletes and tips for health maintenance and resilience), stability (managing anxiety and new routines), finding purpose (grounding in something bigger than yourself), seeking connection (making human connections despite the distance), and perspective (reframing a bad situation to evolve and thrive).
  3. Pre-packaged bundles of current GetSetUp classes that address the needs of your community. These are made easy and convenient for your members to access. AARP Connections provided a bundle specific 30 new tools for seniors in “Education” and “Technology to Stay Connected” to help support AARP clients. This supported 2000+ individuals in the first 2 weeks of the launch of the program on activities, like Telemedicine, Grocery Delivery, Installing Zoom, Applying for Social Security, and Medicare Online.
  4. Economic opportunities are available for your own senior members to gain economic benefits on our platforms by becoming Guides and teaching.

GetSetUp has a platform and Guides ready to help keep your community engaged and fight loneliness.

How does it work?

  1. Your Community Accesses Classes
  2. They get to learn with their peers
  3. Create friendships
  4. Build Community
  5. Learn new skills to help empower themselves.
  6. Have fun!

All of the above starts reducing loneliness, provides new skills, requires cognitive development, and reduces the negative effects of social isolation.

Find out more about how GetSetUp can ensure that your community is engaged, connected, and not fighting a pandemic on two fronts with both coronavirus and loneliness.

GetSetUp can help create a community of support to combat loneliness and ensure peace of mind for your community!

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