Loneliness and social isolation in older adults are serious public health risks affecting a significant number of people in our communities, putting them at risk for dementia and other serious medical conditions.
Approximately one-quarter of Americans aged 65 and older are considered socially isolated, and a significant proportion of adults in the United States report feeling lonely. People who are 50 years of age or older are more likely to experience many of the risk factors that can cause or exacerbate social isolation or loneliness, such as living alone, the loss of family or friends, chronic illness and sensory impairments.
Social isolation was a growing problem in American society well before the COVID-19 pandemic. A third of older adults over 65 and half over 85 live alone, contributing to higher rates of loneliness—linked to increased cases of depression, cognitive decline and other serious health problems. As we were all urged to physically distance for our own protection and that of our neighbors, older adults saw their social lifelines disappear.
We see this having a profound negative impact on physical and mental health outcomes in the short and long term. In contrast, fostering social connection in later life means older adults can continue to thrive and be valued members of our communities.
Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) has created a grant program to support projects that provide southwest Minnesota-serving organizations with funding to reduce and prevent social isolation and loneliness among older adults in our region. Visit our grants page to learn more.
Open Grant: Fostering Social Connection in Later Life
Paul and Alma Schwan Aging Trust Endowment Fund
These grants will invest in coordination of activities and/or direct interventions to improve people’s connections through social supports, enhanced interactions, or adaptive cognition. Examples could include connection to opportunities, meaning making and volunteer programs, online and physical program coordination or caregiver support. SWIF has allocated a total of $250,000 for individual grant awards ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 (one-year term).