Illinois Aging Network Alert – March 13, 2019
A report of the impact Area Agencies on Aging have on Illinois seniors
The Illinois Aging Network Addresses Social Isolation
Social isolation is a growing concern around the world. The United Kingdom even created the office of Minister of Social Isolation to address it in that country.
In Illinois, social isolation is becoming a health epidemic. The good news is that for over 45 years, the Area Agencies on Aging’s local network of Older American Act funded services and supports continue to reduce social isolation among older adults.
After special presentations at the last two National Association of Area Agencies on Aging conferences by the AARP Foundation, Illinois decided to concentrate extra effort on this concern. The 13 Area Agencies on Aging along with the Illinois Department on Aging will work together through the statewide initiative to raise awareness and provide a statewide impact to reduce social isolation among Illinois’ older adults.
Social isolation is more than being alone. It is the result of feeling detached physically or psychologically or of being disconnected from the support of family, friends, and community. It is characterized by a lack of meaningful relationships, a desire for contact with more people, and/or feelings that relationships are inadequate.
A report from AARP documented that an estimated 17% of older adults were socially isolated* with risk factors that include such indicators as:
- Living alone
- Major life transitions
- Limited English speaking
- Caregiving for someone with severe impairment
- Socioeconomic status (i.e. low income or limited resources)
- Mobility or sensory impairment
- Rural distances, and urban crime isolation, etc.
The Illinois response to this issue is being developed and will be one of the first challenges for the new Illinois Department on Aging Director. At stake are the health and financial risks of social isolation:
- Increased mortality in older adults (26%)
- Health risks of ongoing isolation is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day
- Greater risk of falls and self-neglect
- Higher health care costs including increased incidents of dementia
- Increased risk for hospital readmission and reliance on short-term rehab and skilled nursing home care
Future I4A Alerts will offer more on our efforts to increase awareness and counter the negative effects of social isolation. Representatives from your Area Agency on Aging will be in touch to share the wonderful work going on in your district for older adults, caregivers, grandparents raising grandchildren, and individuals with disabilities.
For more information, contact Susan C. Real, I4A Legislative Chair, at (309)829-2065 ext. 218 or Joy Paeth, I4A President, at (618)222-2561.
*Statistics in this document were found in the following source: Elder, Katie and Jess Retrum. 2012. “Framework for Isolation in Adults Over 50.” AARP Foundation.