Senior Living Communities: Uniquely Positioned to Reduce Social Isolation and Promote Social Connection in Older Adults
Social isolation among older adults can drive negative health outcomes ranging from depression, and anxiety to decreased cognitive ability and even an increased risk of death. As a result, individuals experiencing social isolation have higher healthcare expenditures. Even before pandemic restrictions led to physical isolation, one out of four older adults experienced social isolation.
Senior living communities are uniquely positioned to provide social opportunities that can help residents stay physically and mentally well while reducing isolation and health expenditures. To explore the links between social isolation and negative health outcomes and identify best practices among senior living communities to reduce social isolation among residents, ATI conducted a literature review and a series of interviews with senior living communities.
This analysis identified best practices for senior living communities to reduce social isolation and improve health outcomes, including personalized programming, adaptability, use of technology, structured and unstructured programming, recreational activities promoting physical and mental wellbeing, and opportunities to form meaningful connections.
Research has shown that engagement in social opportunities provides great benefits to older adults living in senior living communities. The ability to leverage data and technology to track residents’ interests and level of engagement allows senior living communities to cater programs to meet residents’ needs and improve participation in social opportunities. During the pandemic, technical capacity in senior living communities helped residents stay connected with family and friends. It also provided them with unique opportunities to stay engaged through virtual participation in destination tours and interactive lectures.
Other innovative programs such as inter-generational social engagement programs, activities integrating residents with the broader community, and buddy systems have also been successful in improving wellness among residents by cultivating meaningful relationships both within and outside the walls of the community. To further improve health and wellness outcomes while reducing social isolation, senior living communities must continue to innovate around technology and the use of space and build their internal capacity to adapt to uncertainties such as the pandemic.