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Addressing Costs of Social Isolation in Older Americans

AARP Wyoming's Movies for Grownups series, which seeks to fight social isolation in people age 50 and older, kicks off Oct. 3 with "Downton Abbey" at Cheyenne's Capitol Theater. (Froberg/Flickr)
AARP Wyoming's Movies for Grownups series, which seeks to fight social isolation in people age 50 and older, kicks off Oct. 3 with "Downton Abbey" at Cheyenne's Capitol Theater. (Froberg/Flickr)
September 5, 2019

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – In the build-up to National Good Neighbor Day on Sept. 28, the AARP Foundation is encouraging all Americans to make a point to say hello and connect with adults age 50 and older in their communities.

Lisa Ryerson, president of the AARP Foundation, says many older people are disconnected from family, friends and other support networks, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

"And both have very serious health outcomes,” she points out. “Increased social isolation over time is the health equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day."

According to AARP.org/Wyoming" target="parent">analysis by AARP and Stanford University, just one-in-three older adults who talks with neighbors is lonely, compared with more than 60% of people who have never spoken to a neighbor.

Ryerson says all it takes to help out is to knock on a door, check in with older neighbors to see if they're OK, or invite them out for coffee or tea.

Ryerson says everyone loses when older adults are absent from conversations, and communities need the contributions and talents of all members in order to thrive.

Ryerson adds that Medicare spends nearly $7 billion a year in costs related to limited social connections and support networks.

"And so there is this financial cost of not working hard to increase connection,” she states. “In Wyoming alone, there is an additional $15 million of Medicare spend related to social isolation."

AARP Wyoming is launching a free Movies for Grownups series to fight social isolation.

"Downton Abbey" will screen at the Capitol Theater in Cheyenne on Oct. 3, with other movies set for Casper and Jackson on Nov. 11.

To register, visit AARP.org/Wyoming. For tips on breaking the ice with your neighbors, visit connect2affect.org.

Disclosure: AARP Wyoming contributes to our fund for reporting on Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Housing/Homelessness, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY