Social isolation is a silent killer — as dangerous to health as smoking. National and global health organizations have underscored the hidden, deadly, and pervasive hazards stemming from loneliness and social isolation. People with disabilities and older adults (along with family care partners) are at particular risk for loneliness and social isolation, and this risk is exacerbated by public health emergencies such as COVID-19 and natural disasters. Our challenge is to educate the public on this dual health hazard, support health and human service professionals in addressing loneliness and social isolation and promote policies that deepen social connections and community for people of all ages.
NASW calls on national leaders to:
- Provide funding and promote infrastructure support to help communities become livable (including age-friendly) for all abilities across the life span.
- Rescind the Healthy Adult Opportunity Initiative, which could (among other harms) decrease access to home and community-based services (HCBS) for people with disabilities and older adults by allowing states to implement block grants and per-capita caps.
- Incorporate the contributions of and increase support for the current Aging and Disabilities Networks, many of which provide services and supports to prevent and mitigate social isolation.
- Advance the new authorities provided in the recently reauthorized Older Americans Act and promote future budget requests to bring those proposals, including programming to reduce social isolation, to fruition.
- Bolster resources for federal programs that serve family caregivers and people living with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia and/or paralysis, traumatic brain injury, limb loss or difference.
- Create a new HCBS innovation fund to help states and other jurisdictions test innovative, evidence-based HCBS models that could enable people with disabilities and older adults to remain engaged in their communities.
- Augment resources to integrate community-based services within HUD Section 202 housing for older adults.
- Support legislation, such as the ACCESS Act (S. 3517/H.R. 6487 in the 116th Congress), to enhance nursing home residents’ access to telecommunications devices and the Internet.
- Implement other interventions to mitigate loneliness and social isolation of nursing home residents in an ongoing manner.