Examining Approaches to Address Loneliness and Social Isolation among Older Adults
Background: Loneliness and social isolation are important determinants of health with impacts comparable to those of other health risk factors. Older adults are especially at risk, when late-life transitions impact social connectedness and social networks, with subsequent effects on quality of life and physical and mental health. Purpose: Our primary purpose is to summarize a streamlined yet thorough literature review to support our discussion and perspective on the growing need for expanded intervention options targeting loneliness and social isolation among older adults. In doing so, we will describe existing and emerging intervention approaches, utilizing specified strategies, designed for this need. Methods: A specifically targeted review of literature, rather than a broad systematic review, was conducted to meet our purpose and tailor results to our primary areas of interest. This review was targeted and tailored as such because we were primarily interested in several specific categories of approaches to address loneliness and social isolation, as described in the results. An online search was utilized to identify publications describing existing and emerging intervention solutions, utilizing specified approaches and targeting older adults. Results: An initial search returned over 5,000 publications; thus, additional criteria were used to narrow these results and identify the most relevant publications for our purpose. The majority of interventions included take one of several approaches identified as an area of interest for this review: telephone-based, community involvement/ volunteering, online/digital solutions, or resilience training. Our review and discussion focuses on these specified categories of existing interventions and considers emerging approaches with potential promise. The results and summary provided demonstrate a need for further widespread application and development of these intervention options. Conclusions: Loneliness and social isolation are common among older adults, impacting their overall health and quality of life. These issues have become important determinants of health; thus further work is warranted in order to further develop and deliver emerging intervention approaches holding promise for older populations.