Money & Business

Associations Harness Digital Tools to Help Isolated Seniors

By / Mar 27, 2020 (agrobacter/E+)

New online platforms help the elderly and isolated feel less alone during this time of social distancing and self-quarantine.

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, loneliness was epidemic in this country.

More than three in five Americans said they were lonely in a survey released in January, long before today’s social distancing measures were adopted in response to the coronavirus. The psychological and physiological effects of loneliness and social isolation can be significant—as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.

For the elderly, the risks are especially acute: Older people are more likely to live alone in the U.S. than elsewhere in the world, the Pew Research Center said this month. At the same time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says older adults are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 infection, and health officials in several states have recommended that the elderly stay home as the crisis continues.

To help, AARP created a new online platform, Community Connections, that gives volunteers and those who need help a place to reach one another. The service allows users to organize and find informal groups of volunteers to help pick up groceries, provide financial assistance, or lend emotional support to those most in need.

“We may need to be physically isolated, but we don’t have to feel alone,” said Andy Miller, senior vice president of AARP Innovation Labs, which developed the new tool, in a statement. “Through this innovative platform, people in need of help from—or who want to offer help to—their communities are empowered to engage.”

“I Love People Who Make Me Laugh.”

In a similar vein, the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) launched carenotcovid.com to share supportive video and other social media messages with residents of nursing homes and assisted living centers—many of whom can’t have visitors because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Sara Cutcliffe

Sara Cutcliffe is a longtime editor and writer who often covers health and consumer topics. More »

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