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Social Isolation as a Healthcare Need for the Elderly

Social Isolation as a Healthcare Need for the Elderly

Social isolation among the elderly and aging population in the United States is a significant issue of public health concern, yet it remains underappreciated. The U.S. portion of the population aged 65 years and above grew from 37.2 million in 2006 to 49.2 million in 2016, showing a 33% increase in a period of 10 years (Administration for Community Living, 2018). Those aged above 60 years increased from 50.7 million to 68.7 million during the same period. At this rate, the elderly population of individuals aged above 65 is estimated to reach over 98 million, with those above 60 expected to double by 2060 (Administration for Community Living, 2018). This article reviews the current incidence and impacts of social isolation among older adults and proposes relevant population-based strategies for social isolation among the elderly at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of prevention. It also identifies the most relevant strategy to help manage this issue of health concern.

Incidence and Impact of Social Isolation on the Elderly

The National Academy of Sciences (2020) estimates that over a quarter of community-dwelling elderly Americans aged 65 and above are considered socially isolated, and a majority report being lonely. The National Institute on Aging (2019) notes that an estimated 13.8 million older people, or 28 percent of the older adult population in the U.S. live in isolation. The number of socially isolated older adults is estimated to grow over the years as the nature of social networking changes. During and after the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a heightened risk of actual social isolation among the elderly (Wu, 2020). The use of digital social networking, as experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, increased the risk and experience of social exclusion among older adults with low digital literacy (Seifert et al., 2021). Particularly, older adults living alone either as a result of the loss of a partner through divorce or death, separation from family, reduced or loss of mobility, age- and health-related retirement, and living under poor socioeconomic conditions are at increased risk of social isolation and loneliness (National Institute on Aging, 2019).

Social isolation has a substantial negative impact on the health and well-being of older people. For instance, social isolation contributes to chronic loneliness, exacerbating an older person’s vulnerability to mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and cognitive issues such as major cognitive impairment (Donovan & Blazer, 2020). It also increases the risk of high blood pressure, elderly smoking and obesity, as well the risk of premature death (National Academy of Sciences, 2020).

Relevant Population-based Strategies for the Prevention of Social Isolation among the Elderly

The prevention of social isolation among older people requires the adoption of population-based strategies at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of prevention. Two population-based strategies have been proposed at each level of prevention.

Strategies at the Primary Level Prevention

Strategy 1: Engaging the Community in Preventing Social Isolation of the Elderly

A program that directly engages the community and educates them on their role in improving the welfare of community-dwelling older people can reduce the number of older people living in isolation. The program may include encouraging the community to be active in caring for the elderly in ways that include older adults in the community’s social circles and activities, community recreational projects, and direct provision of elderly care. Community-level participation and support can significantly improve older adults’ social life and reduce the risk of isolation and loneliness (National Academy of Sciences, 2020).

Strategy 2: Education and Training on Intergenerational Interactions

Training the aged, the aging, and the younger generations on how to interact can improve intergenerational interactions and reduce the exclusion of the elderly from the daily social organization. The training and education can focus on the social integration of different generations with a focus on intergenerational communication as a population-based approach towards the mitigation of the risk of social isolation and loneliness among older people.

Strategies at the Secondary Level Prevention

Strategy 1: Improving the Rate of Screening for Social Isolation

Regular screening for social isolation can help identify elderly people at risk of or experiencing social isolation and develop an early intervention to prevent further isolation. Through regular screening, health and mental healthcare professionals can determine the emotional and mental well-being of the elderly and effectively detect socially isolated older adults at risk of significant health outcomes (Donovan & Blazer, 2020). This creates an opportunity to develop early and targeted interventions, including counseling and recommending social support groups to prevent further social isolation.

Strategy 2: Improving the Elderly Population’s Technology and Telecommunication Literacy

Improving the elderly population’s technology and telecommunication literacy can reduce the risks of double exclusion following the fast changes in the nature of socialization and networking. Digital literacy among older adults can improve their social media and telecare use. Technology-based interventions, including digital literacy, can significantly improve social connections as well as engage the healthcare system in identifying socially isolated and lonely older adults within the system and provide support (Seifert et al., 2021).

Strategies at the Tertiary Level Prevention

Strategy 1: Implementing Programs Supporting Elderly Caregivers

Caregivers provide the needed human contact and have proven to help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness as well as provide safe living among community-dwelling elderly populations (Dautzenberg et al., 2021). Supporting caregivers caring for older people through education can reduce their risk of isolation and loneliness. Also, using digital tools can support informal caregivers in reducing the burden of caring for older people while reducing the risk of social isolation among the elderly (Newman et al., 2019).

Strategy 2: Redesigning Residential Areas and Communities to Become More Friendly to the Elderly

Redesigning residential areas and the community in a way that appreciates the needs of older people and the aging population can reduce and prevent the risk of social isolation among the elderly population. This means redesigning the physical and social environments, such as buildings, walkways, and society at large, to make them more accessible to older people and encourage their social participation.

Prevention Strategy with the Greatest Impact on Social Isolation among the Elderly

Although all of the proposed strategies have potential impacts on reducing and preventing social isolation among the elderly population, the one that I believe would have the greatest impact on addressing the issue is engaging the community in preventing social isolation of older people. Engaging the community in preventing social isolation among older adults makes it possible to address first-hand the community-level factors that contribute to social isolation among older people, such as stigma and exclusion from community activities. Also, engaging the community can help people understand why older adults need them, as they become more open to checking up on the elderly and including them in their social interactions. Additionally, the knowledge that every individual within the community will age at some point can make people more open to the idea of community-based care for older adults. Community engagement in preventing elderly isolation can also make it easy to implement other strategies, such as redesigning the social and physical environment to be friendly to older people, supporting caregivers for the elderly, improving intergenerational integration and digital literacy, and screening. Subsequently, this can significantly improve the elderly population’s level of social participation with an impact on their sense of belonging and well-being (Luo et al., 2020).


In conclusion, social isolation is a healthcare risk in the U.S. that requires immediate solutions. Social isolation risks the health outcomes of the elderly population. Various population-based strategies have the potential to prevent elderly social isolation. However, improving community participation in preventing social isolation among the elderly population is a sustainable solution to the healthcare issue with a significant impact on the well-being of older adults.


Administration for Community Living. (2018). A Profile of Older Americans: 2017. In U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (pp. 1–18). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dautzenberg, L., Beglinger, S., Tsokani, S., Zevgiti, S., Raijmann, R. C. M. A., Rodondi, N., Scholten, R. J. P. M., Rutjes, A. W. S., Di Nisio, M., Emmelot-Vonk, M., Tricco, A. C., Straus, S. E., Thomas, S., Bretagne, L., Knol, W., Mavridis, D., & Koek, H. L. (2021). Interventions for preventing falls and fall-related fractures in community-dwelling older adults: A systematic review and network meta-analysis. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 69(10), 2973–2984.

Donovan, N. J., & Blazer, D. (2020). Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Review and Commentary of a National Academies Report. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 28(12), 1233–1244.

Luo, M., Ding, D., Bauman, A., Negin, J., & Phongsavan, P. (2020). Social engagement pattern, health behaviors and subjective well-being of older adults: An international perspective using WHO-SAGE survey data. BMC Public Health, 20(1), 1–10.

National Academy of Sciences. (2020). Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System. In Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults. National Academies Press (US).

National Institute on Aging. (2019, April 23). Social isolation and loneliness in older people pose health risks. Nia.Nih.Gov.

Newman, K., Wang, A. H., Wang, A. Z. Y., & Hanna, D. (2019). The role of internet-based digital tools in reducing social isolation and addressing support needs among informal caregivers: A scoping review. BMC Public Health, 19(1), 1–12.

Seifert, A., Cotten, S. R., & Xie, B. (2021). A Double Burden of Exclusion? Digital and Social Exclusion of Older Adults in Times of COVID-19. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 76(3), e99–e103.

Wu, B. (2020). Social isolation and loneliness among older adults in the context of COVID-19: a global challenge. Global Health Research and Policy, 5(1), 27.


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Social Isolation as a Healthcare Need for the Elderly

Social Isolation as a Healthcare Need for the Elderly

In this written assignment, you will explore the health needs of men or the elderly.

Step 1: Choose a health problem that needs to be investigated.
From the following list, choose ONE health need to focus on for this assignment:

Health needs of men: prostate health, cardiovascular health, sexual dysfunction, alcohol abuse
Health needs of the elderly: bone health, stroke care, cancer, social isolation
Step 2: Research the incidence and impact of this health need in the United States
Research the incidence and impact of the problem among the specified population. Use at least three scholarly sources (that is, peer-reviewed journal articles or websites written by a group that has expertise and strong credentials in the field of interest). Make sure that you use APA format to properly cite sources used.

Step 3: Propose prevention strategies.
Propose two relevant population-based strategies at each level of prevention (primary, secondary, and tertiary). For example, two strategies for primary prevention, two for secondary and two for tertiary prevention. It is acceptable to either develop your own ideas or highlight strategies that actual community-based programs are doing.

Step 4: Summarize your findings and intervention proposals.
Write a four-page minimum paper that includes the following:

The incidence and impact of this health problem on the population
Two relevant population-based strategies at each level of prevention (for a total of six)
Discuss the strategy that you believe would have the greatest impact, and provide your rationale
Reference Page citing all sources using APA format. Please review the APA 7 Student Sample Paper in the Writing and Assignment Help module. At least one scholarly source is required for this assignment.

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