Social isolation is a growing challenge in today’s society. While individuals of any age can experience isolation, social isolation disproportionately impacts older adults.
Individuals who are socially isolated lack meaningful roles and relationships, they don’t usually participate in activities with others, and they tend not to be well connected to services and supports.
Canada’s National Seniors Council has estimated that up to 16% of people 65+ plus experience isolation, or nearly 950,000 seniors across the country (Statistics Canada, 2017).
What do these numbers mean in Hamilton?
Between 2006 and 2016, the proportion of Hamilton’s population 65+ increased from 14.9% to 17.3%; the number 65+ plus increased from 75,400 to 92,910; and the number 65+ living alone increased from 19,815 to 23,135 (Statistics Canada, 2014 & 2018). Recognizing that we have a growing older population, we can reasonably expect the number of isolated older adults to grow – unless we are vigilant in continuing our search for ways to meaningfully include older adults in the very fabric of our society.
The impacts of isolation are profound. In addition to the strong effects it can have on emotional wellbeing, social isolation has been shown to influence negative health behaviours, increase risk for many conditions, and lead to faster decline in functional and cognitive capacities in older age. It is also associated with high costs to health and social service systems. Recognizing the importance of seeking solutions to combat isolation, in 2013 the federal government, through the New Horizons for Seniors Program, funded 9 projects across the country to form collaboratives that would seek strategies for reducing social isolation. Hamilton was the recipient of one of these grants.
The overall goals of the Hamilton Seniors Isolation Impact Plan (HSIIP) (March 2016-December 2019) were to:
- measurably reduce social isolation among adults 55+
- to build the community’s capacity to identify, reach and connect isolated older adults
- to prevent social isolation in the future
You will find a comprehensive description and final evaluation of the three-year project in the News and Resources section on this page.
While the federally funded project has been completed, the need to engage older adults in meaningful ways in our community continues.
For that reason, we are pleased to introduce a page called Social Inclusion Matters on the Hamilton Council on Aging (HCoA) website.
Here you will find guidelines for communities for those who many want to explore the introduction of Hamilton’s Connector model in their communities, a description of and materials associated with our ‘Do You Know Your Neighbour?’ campaign, videos produced as part of the HSIIP project and other news and resources.
Please feel free to download and use or adapt the resources in this section. We hope that you find them useful. Since we firmly believe in sharing and collaboration, we also invite you to share your experiences and resources with us!