Older adults: Overcoming isolation and loneliness

(Alabama Cooperative Extension System)

People are naturally social beings, but according to the National Academies of Science, one-fourth of adults 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated. What is the difference between social isolation and loneliness? Social isolation is when a person has few contacts or connections whereas loneliness is feeling alone or separated from others even in a crowd.

Risk factors

Risk factors associated with isolation can include the following:

  • Limited financial resources
  • Inability to drive
  • Lack of public transportation
  • Living alone
  • Multiple health conditions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported that poor social relationships increased the risk of heart disease by 29%, stroke by 32% and dementia by 50%. Both social isolation and loneliness can put senior adults at a higher risk of cognitive decline, depression, obesity, premature death and hypertension as well.

What you can do

There are some things people can do to overcome social isolation or loneliness.

  • Attend an Alabama Extension event. Check out calendar events to find an activity near you
  • Attend virtual or in-person educational opportunities presented by the Virginia Caples Lifelong Learning Institute for older adults
  • Join your local senior center
  • Have lunch with friends
  • Visit with your grandchildren or other family members
  • Volunteer at the school, faith-based organization or community group
  • Join your local YMCA or other fitness program in your community
  • Public libraries and community centers also have programs for senior adults

View the eldercare locator or call 1-800-677-1116.

For more information

For more information, visit the Older Adults section of the Alabama Extension website.