Facilitating greater participation — specified as engagement in social activities that provide opportunities for social interaction with others in the community — is pivotal for granting older adults to fulfill their basic socialization needs, self-actualization and supporting society in dealing with population aging.

In the United States, almost a quarter of community-dwelling older adults are socially isolated, and 43% of these older adults report feeling lonely. Due to the crucial nature of such engagement for older individuals’ health, its decrease has been linked to substantial health consequences, including a 29% increased chance of death.

The concern of encouraging older adults to maintain social involvement is only addressed in a narrow context. This Is Getting Old, with our mission to move toward an age-friendly world, invites you to watch the full episode or listen to the podcast of the 9th episode of our 10-part AARP/ Age-Friendly Social Innovation Challenge—Part 9: Social Participation. 

Learn more about valuable programs and innovative solutions that can help you or someone you know.

Key points covered in this episode:

✔️ Loneliness Is A Chronic Disease

Regardless of one’s age, loneliness is often as debilitating as a health condition. It’s equivalent basically to having a chronic illness or a disease. Social isolation is equivalent to smoking about 15 cigarettes a day.

✔️ Roger And His Social Participation Issues

Roger is 88 years young and is a retired concert jazz pianist. Roger lived by himself in a small townhouse in Washington DC. And there’s a senior center a few blocks from him with weekly game nights and free dinner. He could walk over there but rather not. Furthermore, his doctor told him that he lost 15 pounds at his last physical examination.

 ✔️Social Participation – Problem Statement

Roger needs a way to thrive physically and emotionally because he appears isolated and has deteriorating health conditions.

✔️community Health Navigators For Socially Isolated Adults Like Roger

Social and community services are critical to healthy longevity, maintaining health and providing purpose. Thus the group came up with Community Health Navigators as an innovative solution for older adults like Roger.

  • Community Health Navigators would be developed to address both the underlying medical conditions and find meaningful connections with the community regarding older adults’ health and personal lives.
  • Community Health Navigators work to extend the medical journey for older adults and connect medical care to the needed social services.
  • Community Health Navigators can be social workers or some physician assistant role that would be trained to have compassionate conversations to make sure connections are made within the community.

✔️More Ways To Help Older Adults Like Roger

Check out a program led by the AARP Foundation called Connect2affect at Connect2Affect.org if you are someone you know who is experiencing social isolation. This website will give you more information on getting help for yourself or someone you know, give you other ideas for supporting people in your area, and learn about new interventions to reduce social isolation.

You can also take the Isolation Assessment; find local and online resources and ways that you can volunteer to serve others.

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About Melissa:

Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FGSA, FAAN. I am a nurse, nurse practitioner, nurse educator and nurse researcher with over 25 years of experience in the aging and long-term care healthcare space. You can visit my website at MelissaBPhD.com to learn more about me, how you can work with me directly,
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