One in three seniors lives alone and one in four feels lonely. Our social networks tend to shrink as we age due to retirement, loss, mobility challenges and declining health. Gaps in social support needs intensify as older adults become more reliant on others to meet their increasing support needs, yet they have fewer people to rely on.
It’s clear that social isolation and loneliness are growing public health concerns, underscored by a recent advisory
from the Surgeon General. The negative consequences of social isolation include anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, a lower quality of life and increased use of healthcare services. Homebound older adults are particularly vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness.
Efforts to address loneliness and social isolation are central to the program and research goals of Meals on Wheels America. 93% of local Meals on Wheels programs provide clients with a wide variety of regular companionship opportunities to help promote social connection, such as telephone reassurance, friendly visitor and pet programming.
The research confirms what Meals on Wheels programs have known anecdotally for decades: social connection programs are effective and truly make a difference in the lives of meal recipients. The Meals on Wheels network has been at the forefront of addressing the unique needs of homebound older adults, providing social connection programs that cater to their specific circumstances. It is imperative in addressing the epidemic of loneliness to drive additional funding that expands and sustains these transformative programs, so they can reach even more homebound older adults, ensuring they receive the care, companionship and support they deserve.