December 8, 2016
WASHINGTON–AARP Foundation recently announced the launch of Connect2Affect, a response to the growing epidemic of isolation affecting more than 8 million older adults. The goal of Connect2Affect is to create a network that not only builds awareness about social isolation and its impact, but also identifies solutions.
Strong social connections are fundamental to physical and mental well-being. But recent research shows that the negative health consequences of chronic isolation and loneliness, while harmful at any age, are especially so for older adults. According to a study published last year in Perspectives on Psychological Science, the health effects of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. An earlier report found that subjective feelings of loneliness can increase the risk of death by anywhere from 26 percent to 45 percent.
“Social isolation is a complex problem, one that desperately needs our attention,” said AARP Foundation President Lisa Marsh Ryerson. “With Connect2Affect, we want to encourage new research, create a deeper understanding of loneliness and isolation, and identify innovative solutions to help adults age 50 and older build the social connections they need to thrive.”
Spearheaded by AARP Foundation, in collaboration with the Gerontological Society of America, Give an Hour, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and UnitedHealth Group, Connect2Affect features tools and resources to help evaluate isolation risk, reach out to others who may be feeling lonely and disconnected, and find practical ways to reconnect with the community. Content on the website, connect2affect.org, is drawn from leading voices such as the American Society on Aging, Boston College, Huffington Post and many more.
Connect2Affect’s online tool includes a fast, easy self-assessment test that asks yes or no questions relating to relationships, mobility and major life changes. The assessment, which will continue to evolve as new findings on social isolation emerge, can be taken at any age — giving users the opportunity to consider how they want to age and the types of relationships they want to have as they get older.