Smith introduces legislation to address social isolation for seniors and elderly

Sen. Tina Smith
Sen. Tina Smith

Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., introduced legislation Wednesday, Oct. 23, to address the negative mental and physical health effects -- and the economic consequences -- of social isolation among seniors.

According to a news release, more than 8 million older Americans experience social isolation, and nearly half of older adults feel isolated, alone or left out. Socially isolated seniors face a 29% increased risk of mortality. And when it comes to federal Medicare spending, it’s $134 more per person per month for every socially isolated older adult. This is compared to Medicare spending on chronic conditions.

Smith’s Older Americans Social Isolation and Loneliness Prevention Act calls for revising the Older Americans Act so there are supports and services in place to allow states to better coordinate to address social isolation and loneliness among older Americans.

“Loneliness and social isolation isn’t just bad for older Americans’ mental and physical well-being -- it’s bad for our economy, too. Connectedness to communities is important for seniors and our economy to thrive,” Smith stated in the release. “The bill I’m introducing … would make it possible for states to pursue projects that address social isolation and loneliness, set up a working group with stakeholders about this issue, and support prevention and other supportive services for seniors in Minnesota and across the country.”

Smith’s bill proposes the following revisions to the Older Americans Act:


  • Supporting screening for the prevention of social isolation and loneliness and coordination of supportive services and health care to address social isolation and loneliness;

  • Increasing the focus of the assistant secretary for aging on social isolation and loneliness through long-term planning and convening an interagency working group with aging network stakeholders on this topic; and

  • Allowing states to pursue grant funding for projects that address social isolation and loneliness among older individuals.

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