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Reducing Social Isolation to Improve Health Outcomes in the Elderly

Endoresed in:

March, 2020

Paper Type:

Position Paper

Authors:

  • Edem A. Afenu (University of Toronto)
  • Molly Gao (University of Toronto)
  • Monisha Persaud (University of Toronto)
  • Geoffrey Sem (University of Toronto)
  • Matthew Sem (University of Toronto)

Background:

Socially isolated seniors are prone to a variety of illnesses including chronic lung disease, hypertension, arthritis, cardiovascular issues, increased hospitalizations and overall increased mortality. Psychologically, they also suffer from hopelessness, depression, and suicidal ideation. In 2012, the International Federation of Ageing stated, “the number one emerging issue facing seniors in Canada is keeping older people socially connected and active.” Research by AGE WELL, a federally funded aging network, found that up to 43% of seniors living in the community feel socially isolated. Hence, it is a prevalent and preventable issue with significant consequences to population and individual health. A better longitudinal system of care prioritizing social connectedness is required to reduce the adverse effects of social isolation in seniors.

Recommendations:

  • The Ontario government should improve the working conditions for personal support workers (PSWs) to enable them to invest more time into building healthy relationships with their clients, in order to counteract social isolation.
  • The Ontario government should create a province-wide strategy focused on the research, funding, and development of accessible interventions to combat social isolation in the elderly, particularly in home-bound and marginalized populations, as well as those who are unable to speak English.
  • The Ontario government should enable the building of age-friendly communities and prevent social isolation by implementing key suggestions outlined in the AFRRCI, and launching a similar initiative in urban cities to determine unique challenges that our elderly populations face.
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