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NEW LEGISLATION TO ADDRESS HIDDEN AND GROWING PROBLEM OF SOCIAL ISOLATION AND LONELINESS AMONG SENIORS

Oct 30, 2019

Arlington, VA, October 30, 2019 – Following the introduction of S. 2677, the Older Americans Social Isolation and Prevention Act – legislation that would amend the Older Americans Act of 1965 to place a greater focus on addressing social isolation and loneliness among older adults – Meals on Wheels America President and CEO Ellie Hollander released the following statement:

I commend Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee for introducing the Older Americans Social Isolation and Loneliness Prevention Act. This important piece of legislation will raise much-needed attention and awareness within the Older Americans Act to the negative health effects and economic consequences of the loneliness and social isolation that is prevalent among seniors.

I am pleased to see that as our country’s senior population rapidly grows, so, too, does the national discussion surrounding how to address loneliness and isolation within this population. Today, one in five seniors reports feeling lonely, which has been shown to increase their risk of health complications such as overall functional decline and chronic illness. Further, one in four seniors lives alone, and social isolation among older adults is associated with an extra $6.7 billion in Medicare spending each year. And, as cited directly within the legislation, seniors who are less socially connected are at a higher risk of mortality comparable with the risks of smoking, obesity or air pollution.

Many of the factors that make older adults more susceptible to social isolation and loneliness – living alone, residing in rural areas, managing limited mobility, having past experience with falls – are commonly found among seniors receiving Meals on Wheels. In fact, 59% of home-delivered meal recipients live alone, and for many of them, the person delivering the meal is often the only person they will see that day. Meals on Wheels staff and volunteers become a valuable part of seniors’ social networks and get to see the positive influence their visits have on the seniors they serve every day. In short, community-based Meals on Wheels programs are an integral part of the solution to combating this growing and costly public health issue.  

Again, we thank Senator Smith for her leadership and commitment to address these issues. She has delivered Meals on Wheels multiple times in her home state of Minnesota and has seen firsthand the value in leveraging community-based organizations as an extension of a vulnerable senior’s family and/or support network. If enacted, the Older Americans Social Isolation and Loneliness Prevention Act would shed light on the prevalence of loneliness and isolation among our country’s senior population and fortify the ability of community-based organizations like Meals on Wheels to address these issues head on. We look forward to working with Congress to ensure this legislation is included in any final Older Americans Act reauthorization bill to help make certain no older adult feels alone or left behind. 

Read the bill text here
Read a summary of the bill here.

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ABOUT MEALS ON WHEELS AMERICA
Meals on Wheels America is the leadership organization supporting the more than 5,000 community-based programs across the country that are dedicated to addressing senior isolation and hunger. This network serves virtually every community in America and, along with more than two million staff and volunteers, delivers the nutritious meals, friendly visits and safety checks that enable America’s seniors to live nourished lives with independence and dignity. By providing funding, leadership, education, research and advocacy support, Meals on Wheels America empowers its local member programs to strengthen their communities, one senior at a time.

Press Contact:

Jenny Young
Meals on Wheels America
571-339-1603
jenny@mealsonwheelsamerica.org