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Fight Loneliness and Social Isolation

Loneliness and social isolation are very common among seniors, especially with the recent pandemic. While these issues have been around for a long time, we’ve only recently started talking about them more.

What are loneliness and social isolation?

Loneliness is the feeling of being alone, regardless of the number of family and friends around you. Social isolation is a lack of social connections. The two are separate issues, but can be found together. Social isolation can lead to loneliness, but you can feel lonely without being socially isolated. 1

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), about 25% of seniors are considered to be socially isolated, and a significant proportion of Americans report feeling lonely. Seniors are more likely to experience risk factors that can cause social isolation or loneliness, such as living alone, the loss of family or friends, chronic illness and sensory impairments. 2

Risk Factors

Loneliness and social isolation have negative effects on physical and mental health, as well as life expectancy. In fact, the mortality risk of loneliness is comparable to smoking and alcohol abuse. People who experience loneliness are 50% more likely to die early. 3

Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a number conditions, including a weakened immune system, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s and even death. 4

If you find yourself alone due to the death of a spouse or partner, separation from friends or family, retirement, loss of mobility and lack of transportation you may be at a higher risk for loneliness. 4

Overcoming social isolation and loneliness

If you participate in meaningful, productive activities with others you may boost your mood, have a sense of purpose, maintain well-being, improve cognitive function and live longer. 4

You can reduce loneliness and social isolation by focusing on the following:

  • Improving social skills. Work on improving your verbal and non-verbal skills.
  • Increasing social support. Visit with family and friends. Even if it is virtual, a little support is better than nothing.
  • Increasing access to social interactions. Find a social event near you. Focus on more meaningful online interactions. You can also check out these Tips to Stay Connected.
  • Changing negative thoughts into positive ones. Keep a gratitude journal. Find one to three things each day for which you are grateful.

You can strengthen social connections using these 5 tips from SilverSneakers®, a lifestyle and fitness benefit designed specifically for seniors. Check with your health care provider as it may be included in your health plan at no additional cost. SilverSneakers is more than a fitness program – it’s a way of life.

If you enjoyed this article, visit SilverSneakers

Go to to see if you are eligible today.

For more information on staying connected, check out the SilverSneakers blog .

About SilverSneakers

SilverSneakers, by Tivity Health, is the nation’s leading community fitness program for Medicare eligible Americans. The program was founded in 1992 and is available to more than 16 million Americans through many Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare Supplement carriers, and group retiree plans. For more information, to check eligibility or to enroll in the program or sign up for a SilverSneakers newsletter, go to

Always talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

  1. Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions
  2. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. National Academies:Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults .
  3. Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review, Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB (2010) Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLOS Medicine 7(7): e1000316. Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
  4. Social isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks

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