Social isolation among seniors is of growing concern due to the negative impact on individuals, their families and communities. Statistics Canada estimates that 19% and 24% of those over age 65 feel isolated from others and wish to participate in more social activities.
Research shows that lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is worse than better-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity. It is also a risk for elder abuse. Contributing factors to social isolation exclude seniors from participating and contributing to their communities by volunteering or by supporting local businesses and events. In addition, seniors who are caregivers may become isolated due to their role and are more likely to feel anxious and/or worried.
Social isolation is a complex issue. It results from a myriad of circumstances and situations that involve the interplay of personal, individual, social and environmental factors, only some of which are within the control of or can be modified by individuals and their families. Other factors, such as poverty, relative deprivation, discrimination, hostility and high crime environments, pose barriers to seniors’ access to services and to their social participation, demanding population level and systems interventions by communities and governments.
Socially innovative solutions, designed to address complex social problems, are required to address social isolation. Social innovation is an intentional approach characterized by leveraging of funds, expertise and assets, horizontal multi-level sustainable partnerships, and a combination of diverse activities and interventions that share risks and benefits. By working together and combining resources, diverse multi-and cross-sectoral partners can achieve shared results and concrete outcomes through collective impact.
In 2016 the Government of Canada Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), as part of the New Horizons for Seniors Program, approved three-year funding for nine collective impact projects across Canada designed to reduce social isolation among seniors at the population level. While all are working towards the same goal, the projects have focused on different seniors’ populations, and have developed different theories of change, diverse partnerships and unique approaches to addressing seniors’ social isolation. Developing and implementing collective impact plans has provided challenges as well as rich learning.
In this forum participants will learn about these challenges and achievements and will be exposed to multiple evidence-based methods for addressing social isolation among seniors at the individual, community and systems levels.
Forum Goal and Objectives
The goal of this forum is to identify emerging and leading practices in reducing social isolation among diverse seniors through collective impact.
Presenters will provide an overview of how their project has approached mitigating social isolation among seniors, including their theory of change, collective impact plan, interventions to engage seniors and communities, evaluation metrics to measure impact, and lessons learned. This forum will involve discussions and information sharing among participants.
- Explore contributing factors to social isolation for diverse senior populations and ways to address these.
- Identify emerging and leading practices in mitigating social isolation among diverse seniors (e.g., caregivers, rural, immigrant)
- Identify benefits, challenges and strategies for effective partnerships and collective impact.
This forum is co- facilitated by project leads for the ESDC funded impact plans to reduce social isolation at the population level.
- Einat Danieli, ENRICHES – Engagement to Reduce Social Isolation in Caregivers at Home and Enhance Seniors
- Mariam Larson, Allies in Aging
- Mark Stolow, Montreal Isolated Seniors & Caregivers Collective
- Tim Henderson, Pan-Edmonton Group Addressing Social Isolation of Seniors (P·E·G·A·S·I·S)
- Taralynne Prindville, Hamilton Seniors Isolation Impact Plan
- Holly Schick, Reducing Isolation of Seniors in South and Central Saskatchewan
- Annie Frappier, Collectif aînés isolement social ville de Québec
- Penny MacCourt, Nanaimo Seniors Connect
- Lauren Brooks-Cleator, Keeping Ottawa Seniors Connected
 Statistics Canada 2008-2009 Canadian Community Health Survey, cited in National Seniors Council (2014). Report on the Social Isolation of Seniors 2013-2014. Government of Canada, p 1. Retrieved July 5, 2018 from http://www.seniorscouncil.gc.ca/eng/research_publications/social_isolation/page00.shtml
 Gilmour, Heather (2012). Statistics Canada Health Reports October 2012. Retrieved July 4, 2018 from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2012004/article/11720-eng.htm.
 Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS Med, 7(7), e1000316