The Hamilton Senior’s Social Isolation Project is a three-year project, funded by the Government of Canada through the New Horizons for Seniors Program. Community agencies will be collaborating to reach a goal of positive outcomes for 20% of isolated seniors city-wide. In Hamilton the population of isolated seniors is thought to be around 11318 (estimated as 15% of the 75,450 seniors counted in the 2006 census); positive outcomes for 20% would mean reaching over 2200 people.
What is Social Isolation?
Social isolation is often defined as a low quantity and quality of social contact with others. This condition has been proven to negatively impact health outcomes and reduce quality of life. Seniors are particularly vulnerable because they are more likely to experience the risk factors that can lead to social isolation such as physical disability, death of family members or friends, lack of transportation, low-income, and others. Preventing and addressing social isolation among seniors not only improves their health and well-being, but also has important benefits for our society. Their social inclusion leads to fewer public expenditures on health care, more cohesive communities, and opportunities to benefit from the knowledge and contributions of active seniors. A more active role in the community also has the potential to reduce pressure on families and ease care-giver burn out.
The Hamilton Council on Aging is taking on a supportive ‘backbone’ role in the project, helping to bring together partners in the community and coordinate their efforts. A number of Community Care Connectors have been hired among the partners and their roles will involve finding and reaching out to isolated seniors to ensure that they are linked to services and activities. The group will begin by targeting two high-risk neighborhoods, and these efforts will expand city-wide as we gain momentum and learn from shared experience.
The Hamilton Senior’s Social Isolation Project aligns with many of the goals set out in Hamilton’s Plan for an Age Friendly City. For example, this work will advance objectives in the plan relating to health and community services, social participation, and civic engagement. Through this project our community recognizes that the social inclusion of seniors is a crucial aspect of fostering an age-friendly city.