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Empowering Aging Canadians

Top Tips on How to Battle Social Isolation in Your Community

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Would you know what to say or do if you saw a neighbour in need?

As we get older, the risk of social isolation increases significantly. But the truth is, social isolation doesn’t have to be part of aging.


Social isolation (the lack of meaningful communication, contact, or interaction) can be caused by a variety of factors, such as the loss of a spouse or care partner or mobility restrictions.

This isolation can have a profound impact on a person’s health and well-being, including their physical, emotional, and mental health. Older adults who are socially isolated may be more likely to fall, experience feelings of depression, experience functional decline, have poorer cognitive function, have a higher risk for dementia, and have an increase in visits to the emergency department.

Overcoming social isolation is crucial to maintaining a healthy and fulfilling life. The Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA) developed the Supporting Your Neighbours: A Community Conversation Guide to help people understand and recognize the signs of social isolation in their communities.

Signs to look out for

Being aware of the signs of social isolation can help you identify changes or important considerations for someone’s well-being. Here are a few questions that can help identify a socially isolated older adult:

  • Have they shared that they’re feeling lonely or secluded?
  • How is their hygiene? Are they getting dressed or staying in the same clothes/pajamas for long periods of time?
  • Is their home maintained?
  • Has their behaviour changed or have they recently stopped going to social events they used to enjoy?
  • Are they having a hard time remembering new information, or forgetting how to do a common task?

Ways you can help

Sometimes an older adult just needs someone to talk to or to feel that someone cares. Other times, they may need more support than what you can provide. Here are a few tips to help an older adult who may be experiencing social isolation:

  • Be a social companion/friend
  • Help with tasks around their house or in their daily lives
  • Make an effort to understand how you can support and empower older adults who belong to equity-deserving groups

What if someone doesn’t want help?

We all need meaningful social connections and this is especially true for those who are most susceptible to social isolation. But not everyone will want the help. Here are a few ways you can continue to offer support:

  • Be there to listen
  • Ask questions to learn more
  • Be compassionate, not judgmental
  • Be specific with your offers to help
  • Learn what supports and resources might be available to help
  • Suggest the person see their family doctor

It’s important we recognize the impact of social isolation and take steps to reduce it. For more information about how to help someone experiencing social isolation, download the free Supporting Your Neighbours: A Community Conversation Guide on the RIA’s website. This guide was funded by the RTOERO Foundation and developed in consultation with community partners in the Township of Woolwich.

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