As a provider of older adult services, we know how important social support is to the health of our clients. Studies have shown that loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. (1) Adults 50 and over who are lonely or isolated are more at risk for heart disease, stroke, dementia and premature death. (2)
What is the difference between loneliness and socially isolated?
Loneliness is the feeling of being alone, whether you actually are alone or not. Social Isolation is the lack of social contacts, which can lead to feeling lonely. It is estimated nearly a quarter of adults aged 65 and over are socially isolated and are more at risk for loneliness. (2)
Impact of our Meal Delivery Program
Through a research partnership with Texas State University’s Department of Anthropology, MOWCTX had the opportunity to learn more about how our meal delivery program reduces social isolation.
From this research, we learned:
For some of our clients, the volunteer is the only person they see each day. The brief client-volunteer interaction that occurs at meal delivery provides a social connection that can relieve the feeling of social isolation for our most vulnerable clients. The daily interaction also provides a sense of safety and security for our clients as they continue to age in place, in their own homes.
To learn more about the many benefits of our meal delivery, read the publication in Working with Older People.
MOWCTX’s holistic approach to senior care includes programs to help battle older adult isolation and loneliness. For example, we worked with our partners at the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin to evaluate the impact of a four-week program called “Sunshine Calls”.
Sunshine Calls was a randomized control trial that evaluated the effect of regular friendly calls to homebound older adults by measuring a range of mental health and self-rated health outcomes. Of the 240 MOWCTX participants who completed the study, researchers demonstrated that the friendly calls significantly reduced loneliness, depression and anxiety and improved the general mental health of our clients within four weeks.
Based at Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin, Factor Health is a platform that tests and scales programs that improve health and are delivered mostly outside the clinic, in people’s lives. Factor Health works with social service providers, health care payers, and researchers to build and test programs with health outcomes that are relevant to health care payers.
1. Health Resources & Services Administration. (2019). The “Loneliness Epidemic”. https://www.hrsa.gov/enews/past-issues/2019/january-17/loneliness-epidemic
2. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557974/.