While the health-care needs of aging adults have rightly been the focus of preparations for our aging society, politicians have largely ignored a need of equal importance – social connection.
One of the key factors associated with longevity is being socially connected, involved and engaged. Older adults’ social networks may change as they age because of mobility issues, declines in health and the death of friends and family – all of which put them at higher risk for loneliness and social isolation. According to the U.S. Health and Retirement Study, more than 40 per cent of older adults are lonely. In Canada, estimates are lower but still alarming, particularly for women. One in four women and one in five men report feeling lonely at least some of the time, according to data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. This will become an even greater issue as a growing number of baby boomers continue to age.