LONG BEACH, Calif., Oct. 23, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- SCAN, a leading senior-focused organization with the mission of keeping seniors healthy and independent, today announced results of its national survey that reaffirms many seniors battle isolation and loneliness as they age and, more importantly, how they combat it through community engagement.
SCAN's research shows 82 percent of seniors surveyed know at least one person who is lonely, yet 58 percent would be reluctant to admit if they themselves were lonely. The loss of close friends contributes to loneliness among this population and SCAN found that a majority—57 percent—wishes they had more close friends in their lives. Furthermore, 24 percent of respondents believe they aren't important to anyone anymore. The survey also showed that 70 percent of adults age 64 and older agree that experiencing partial hearing or vision loss would make them feel less comfortable being out in public or interacting with friends and family.
"We know that loneliness and isolation are prevalent among America's older population and can have increasingly detrimental effects on mental, emotional and physical health," stated Romilla Batra, MD, SCAN's chief medical officer, who cited a study by Brigham Young University researchers that found simply feeling lonely increases the risk of mortality by 26 percent and a report from AARP Public Policy Institute that revealed socially isolated seniors cost roughly $130 more per month in Medicare spending. "This is an issue that can have devastating effects on seniors' lives, and also negatively impacts the healthcare system. It needs to be addressed and this survey provides important insights from older adults that will help us as we continue to develop solutions."
SCAN surveyed 1,000 representative U.S. adults nationally age 64 and older in August 2017. The findings reveal notable solutions, including:
48 percent of seniors combat loneliness by either participating in community activities or volunteering
67 percent of seniors engage in activities in their immediate community in order to interact with people
Technology has emerged as a trusted way for seniors to stay in touch with loved ones; 77 percent stay connected through email, and 53 percent do so through social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram
"The good news is that seniors are seeking out ways to remain engaged with others, including participation in community events, volunteering and technology," said Batra. "No one should be lonely later in life, and we are committed to providing resources for meaningful interactions as well as mental healthcare so older adults can continue to lead fulfilling lives with the people and activities they enjoy the most."
SCAN offers a number of programs and services to prevent and combat senior loneliness and isolation. Insights behavioral health program addresses mental health issues with in-home care delivered in the patient's primary language. An extension of its Senior Advocate program, SCAN's Member2Member outreach pairs SCAN members—many of whom have clinical or educational backgrounds—with other members to discuss sensitive issues, including depression and isolation. These "Peer Advocates" are able to relate to and connect with fellow seniors experiencing these challenges and check-in on a regular basis.
Through its Volunteer Action for Aging program, SCAN links volunteers with seniors, often one-on-one through programs designed to address loneliness and isolation. Cyber Senior connects a volunteer with a senior for tech education and Friendly Visitors provide emotional support, companionship and conversation to homebound seniors.
SCAN is a not-for-profit organization committed to keeping seniors healthy and independent. That's been our mission since our founding in 1977. Today we deliver on that mission through SCAN Health Plan, one of the largest not-for-profit Medicare Advantage plans in the nation. Independence at Home, a SCAN community service, provides vitally needed services and support to seniors, disabled adults and their caregivers. SCAN also offers education programs, community funding, volunteer opportunities and other community services throughout our California service area. To learn more, visit scanhealthplan.com or facebook.com/scanhealthplan or follow us on twitter @scanhealthplan.