A Snapshot of Isolation

John is 82 years old and lives alone in his suburban home. He no longer drives and finds it increasingly difficult to get around due to severe arthritis. John’s daughter visits once a week to take him shopping.  Although he appreciates his daughter’s visits, John feels lonely and would like to get out to see his friends at the VFW hall. He doesn’t like spending so much time alone.

What is Isolation?

6.7 million, or 17%, of adults aged 65 and older are isolated (www.Connect2Affect.org). There are two components of isolation – social isolation and loneliness. Social isolation is the lack of connection with other people, one’s community, and resources and supports. Loneliness is the feeling of being isolated and alone. Loneliness is feeling alone whereas isolation is being alone.

Many Factors Can Increase Risk of Isolation

  • Living alone
  • Mobility challenges
  • Chronic illnesses and disabilities
  • Transportation barriers
  • Limited social support systems
  • Living in unsafe, inaccessible or rural communities
  • Low income and limited financial resources
  • Cognitive and mental health challenges
  • Language barriers
  • Age, racial, ethnic, sexual orientation and/or gender identity barriers
  • Caregiving for someone with a serious condition
Source: AARP Foundation, May 2012. Framework for Isolation in Adults Over 50

Social Isolation is a Serious Health Issue

  • Growing evidence shows that isolation is a major health issue like diabetes or obesity and negatively impacts the health and wellbeing of seniors.
  • Isolation may also place seniors at increased risk for abuse, neglect and exploitation.
  • One study has linked the health risks of ongoing isolation with smoking 15 cigarettes daily.
Source: Cornwell, Waite (2009). Social Disconnectedness, Perceived Isolation, and Health Among Older Adults.
Source: Holt, Lunstad (2015). Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality.

Get and Stay Connected!

Staying connected contributes to a better quality of life for older adults because it leads to a longer life span through improved emotional well-being and mental health, better health and physical fitness, and renewed sense of purpose. Communities also benefit when older adults are socially engaged in the community and can share their knowledge, talent, skills, experience and wisdom.

Through a Statewide initiative called “EngAGED Illinois,” Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) such as AgeGuide and the Illinois Department on Aging are taking many steps in their local communities to promote services and opportunities for older adults to get and stay connected! Programs are available through AgeGuide and our local partners that reduce isolation and increase social connections such as: Information & Assistance, Friendly Visiting and Telephone Reassurance, Home-Delivered Meals, Education and Recreation Activities, Transportation and Caregiver Supportive Services. In addition, there are many ways older adults can stay active and engaged in their communities—whether it is through volunteering, arts programs, lifelong learning, honing their technical skills or participating in intergenerational activities, there is something for everyone!

Visit the resources below and keep connected with us! Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn and subscribe to our monthly newsletter, The Aging Report.

Get Connected to Services and Resources in Your Community:

Information and Assistance


Senior Centers

Senior Centers provide educational classes, recreational activities and health promotion programs

Caregiver Support Services

Friendly Visiting

Friendly Visiting provides regular visits by volunteers that are focused on developing a friendship and engaging in enjoyable and purposeful activities together.
*Due to COVID-19 and physical distancing guidelines, providers are currently offering Friendly Phone Calls in place of in-person visits

Telephone Reassurance

Phone calls that provide a friendly chat, a security check and informal assistance

Senior Nutrition Programs

Community Dining Sites


Volunteer Opportunities

Additional Resources

AARP Foundation

Self-Assessment for Social Isolation

Eldercare Locator: Expand Your Circles – Prevent Isolation and Loneliness As You Age


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