Preventing social isolation in older people

Natalie Cotterell, Tine Buffel, Christopher Phillipson
Maturitas 2018, 113: 80-84
The extent of social isolation amongst older people has emerged as a major concern for health and social policy. Although the social and health outcomes of social isolation are well documented, evidence regarding the prevention of isolation in later life remains scarce. This article addresses this by presenting the findings from a literature review focusing on the identification, assessment, prevention, and intervention strategies relevant to social isolation in older age. The paper first addresses the issues of identification and assessment, using an ecological framework to identify the risk factors for social isolation at four levels: individual, relationship, community, and societal. It then reviews different types of interventions to reduce or prevent social isolation in later life, including one-to-one, group, service provision, technology-based, neighbourhood, and structural interventions. The paper discusses both the opportunities and the constraints associated with these different approaches. The discussion highlights future directions for research, emphasising the need for a cultural change from 'cure' to 'prevention' of social isolation across the life-course, and the importance of acknowledging greater diversity within the ageing population.


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