Connecting Older Adults to Programs that Foster Social Connection While Reducing Social Isolation and Loneliness is the Topic of 2020 Home for the Holidays Campaign

Connecting Older Adults to Programs that Foster Social Connection While Reducing Social Isolation and Loneliness is the Topic of 2020 Home for the Holidays Campaign

WASHINGTON—Holiday celebrations will look different this year as families heed advice to embrace physical distancing due to COVID-19. For many, particularly older adults who are more likely to live alone and whose social circles tend to be smaller, this will exacerbate the social isolation and loneliness that many individuals are experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is why the Eldercare Locator, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) and the U.S. Administration for Community Living have made staying connected and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic the focus of this year’s Home for the Holidays campaign.

Across the United States, Area Agencies on Aging and their partners have a long history of helping older adults find programs that can help them stay connected to the community, whether it be through in-person or virtual wellness or exercise classes, arts programs, home-delivered meals or other activities. Developed this year in partnership with the University of California, San Diego Center for Healthy Aging, the campaign is intended to raise awareness of local programs that can help reduce social isolation and loneliness among older adults.

An n4a report conducted in the early months of the pandemic found that 60 percent of n4a’s Area Agency on Aging members were already seeing the negative health effects of social isolation and 83 percent wanted guidance on technology that could help them address social isolation in their communities. To meet this growing need, community-based organizations in all areas of the country adjusted their programming to focus on helping older adults stay connected to their communities in a variety of ways, including virtual trivia games, wellness and caregiver support classes, letter-writing campaigns, friendly check-in calls and more. By connecting older adults to these local programs, the Eldercare Locator can help foster critical social connections that have been diminished due to physical distancing in the wake of COVID-19.

“Preventing social isolation and loneliness has always been a core mission for the Aging Network, and COVID-19 has made this work even more critical,” said Lance Robertson, Assistant Secretary for Aging and Administrator of the U.S. Administration for Community Living. “The good news is that there are many resources available to help older adults stay connected and engaged—even when we have to keep our physical distance. Through the Home for the Holidays campaign, we want to make sure that older adults, families and caregivers know about the programs and services that are available right in their own communities. We also want to encourage everyone to ‘commit to connect’ this holiday season—to make a plan for staying engaged ourselves and for reaching out to others who may be isolated. And remember, the Eldercare Locator is there to help.”

“Research shows that there is a measurable connection between our health and social connections that we experience,” said Dilip V. Jeste, MD, Senior Associate Dean for Healthy Aging and Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “By addressing these issues head-on, this campaign can help older adults stay healthy in mind and body.”

“Each year in the Home for the Holidays campaign, we tackle a critical issue facing older adults,” said n4a CEO Sandy Markwood. “This year, based on what we heard from our members who are on the ground in their communities working directly with older adults, no issue is more important to older adults than preventing the social isolation and loneliness that may occur during the pandemic. Our members have truly stepped up to find creative ways to meet the needs of the older adults in their communities during this uncertain time. For older adults and caregivers who are unsure where to turn to find local social engagement opportunities, the Eldercare Locator is a critical connection.”

Eldercare Locator
Launched in 1991, the Eldercare Locator is the only national information and referral resource to provide support to consumers across the spectrum of issues affecting older Americans. The Locator was established and is funded by the U.S. Administration for Community Living and is administered by the National
Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a). eldercare.acl.gov

About the Home for the Holidays campaign
Home for the Holidays is an annual public education campaign that encourages discussion of important issues affecting older Americans at a time of the year when family and friends often gather. Past campaigns have focused on the decision to give up driving, updates that can be made to homes to accommodate the changes that come along with aging, the importance of maintaining brain health and more.

National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) is a 501©(3) membership association representing America’s national network of 622 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) and providing a voice in the nation’s capital for the more than 250 Title VI Native American aging programs. The mission of n4a is to build the capacity of its members so they can better help older adults and people with disabilities live with dignity and choices in their homes and communities for as long as possible. n4a.org

University of California, San Diego Center for Healthy Aging
The Center for Healthy Aging and the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging at the University of California, Health Sciences, is dedicated to the development and application of the latest advances in biomedical and behavioral science knowledge to issues of successful, healthy aging and the prevention and reduction of the burden of disability and disease in late life. aging.ucsd.edu

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