Social isolation became an increasing concern during the COVID-19 pandemic, but even prior to that, older adults were already at the greatest risk for isolation. Beyond the obvious quality of life concerns, there are significant related health concerns as well. In fact, social isolation has been proven to have direct negative impacts on blood pressure, chronic disease, depression, and vulnerability to abuse and neglect.

In December 2019, the Foundation awarded a planning grant to a collaborative of organizations working together to design a community system to reduce older adult isolation in Lackawanna County. The group, led by the United Way of Lackawanna & Wayne Counties, includes social service agencies, institutions of higher education, the Lackawanna County Area Agency on Aging, and health care providers. The key outcome of this grant will be a plan for implementation of a coordinated system that includes a:

  • Shared screening tool to measure social isolation, broadly implemented among local health and social service organizations
  • Team of trained navigators responsible for connecting isolated older adults with the services and supports that they want and need to reduce their isolation
  • Corresponding public awareness campaign about social isolation and its health impacts

As work on the planning grant continues, the Foundation is also exploring more immediate opportunities to support programming that alleviates older adult isolation, while still adhering to physical distancing guidelines.

Capacity Building Older Adult Isolation Responsive Grantmaking