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MN Groups Aim to Reduce Isolation Among Seniors

Loneliness can be as bad for a person's health as obesity and smoking, according to AARP, and it's a real concern for many adults ages 50 to 80. (deagreez/Adobe Stock)
Loneliness can be as bad for a person's health as obesity and smoking, according to AARP, and it's a real concern for many adults ages 50 to 80. (deagreez/Adobe Stock)
October 18, 2019

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Recent studies and surveys indicate that more older adults are struggling with loneliness and isolation. And as winter sets in, those feelings can become more pronounced.

According to an AARP survey this year, one in three older adults say they "lack regular companionship," and one in four describe themselves as "feeling isolated from other people at least some of the time."

Will Phillips, state director of AARP Minnesota, says the results are startling, especially when factoring in gender.

"It does note that caregivers are 8% more likely to be lonely than those who are not caregivers,” says Phillips. “And we know that traditionally – and still today, you know – the majority of caregivers are women."

Phillips says Minnesota's challenges are unique – with its geography, long winters and lack of public transportation all making it harder for some older people to travel to connect with friends and family.

AARP is working with local governments to build more "livable" communities that make it easier for seniors to get around.

AARP isn't the only organization helping older Minnesotans not feel cut off from the rest of the world. For example, the "Men's Shed" movement has reached the state.

It's an idea that originated in Australia, to encourage older men to get together. Phil Johnson is the chair of the U.S. Men's Shed Association, and heads a "Men's Shed" chapter in the Twin Cities suburb of Hopkins.

He says the group meets weekly and plans a variety of projects and activities together.

"Doing a little gardening or landscaping,” says Johnson. “Or, they might go tour something, like the State Capitol."

There are now five "Men's Shed" chapters in Minnesota, and 900 worldwide. AARP Minnesota also is doing more outreach and education about fraud against seniors.

Fear of being taken advantage of, or embarrassment from being a fraud victim, both can lead to isolation.

Disclosure: AARP Minnesota contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN