More than half of seniors over age 65 in Cuyahoga County live alone – more than 135,000 people. But this isn’t the only risk factor for social isolation. Seniors without significant social contact at places like senior centers, religious institutions, etc., and seniors who self-report feelings of loneliness, have higher rates of mental and physical health problems.
Percent of Seniors (Ages 65+) in Cuyahoga County
Social isolation is measured and defined in a variety of ways reflecting the complexity of the individual, community and societal interactions. Despite the vast amount of research and interest related to social isolation, no single measure encapsulates the contributing factors at the state level. To fill this gap, America’s Health Rankings created a multifactorial measure that identifies locations where seniors are at higher risk of social isolation. The new measure was informed by the AARP Foundation's report, A Framework for Isolation in Adults over 50 and a review of existing social isolation literature. The new America’s Health Rankings measure, risk of social isolation, includes the following six factors related to seniors’ health and well-being. These factors are available across multiple geographic levels (e.g., state, county) among adults aged 65 and older:
- Divorced, separated or widowed: Living with a spouse or partner tends to reduce the likelihood of loneliness among seniors.
- Never married: Seniors who have never married are less likely to be socially integrated compared to those who married at one point in life.
- Poverty: Lower-income seniors and those with less education are not as likely to have robust social networks and more likely to be socially isolated.
- Disability: Seniors who experience conditions that limit their physical or mental functions are more likely to have a restricted level of social interaction despite the potentially greater need for social, emotional and physical support.
- Independent living difficulty: Seniors who have limited mobility are at further risk of social isolation given challenges such as limited transportation support options.
- Living alone: Seniors who live alone are more likely to be poorly socially integrated and experience feelings of loneliness.
Framework from America’s Health Rankings. Data from 2018 American Community Survey 1-year estimates.