The Issue

Defining Isolation

Based on a synthesis of the scientific research, AARP has proposed the following unifying definition of isolation: Isolation is the experience of diminished social connectedness stemming from a process whereby the impact of risk factors outweighs the impact of any existing protective factors. A person’s lack of social connectedness is measured by the quality, type, frequency, and emotional satisfaction of social ties. Social isolation can impact health and quality of life, measured by an individual’s physical, social, and psychological health; ability and motivation to access adequate support for themselves; and the quality of the environment and community in which they live.

Seniors Social Isolation in Canada

Extracted from: The National Seniors Council; (

Canada’s population is aging rapidly as a growing proportion of baby boomers transition into their senior years. In 2015, for the first time, the number of persons aged 65 years and older exceeded the number of children aged 0 to 14 years. At the same time, the growth rate of the population aged 65 years and older was 3.5% – approximately four times the growth rate of the total population.

While most seniors are engaged in mutually-supporting social networks and are involved in their communities, there are significant numbers who experience episodic or long term social isolation.
Data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, a large-scale study with a range of social isolation indicators, provide an overall sense of the magnitude of the problem (Statistics Canada, 2010). Accordingly:

• 16% of seniors felt isolated from others often or some of the time
• 6% of seniors reported spending little or no time with someone with whom they could complete enjoyable activities
• 5% indicated having someone to listen to them none or little of the time
• More than 8% reported having someone to receive advice about a crisis none or little of the time
• 3.9% of seniors reported having someone who shows love and affection to them none or little of the time
• 6% reported having someone to do something enjoyable with none or little of the time
• 6% reported never or not often participating in activities with family and friends
• 17.3% reported feeling excluded often or some of the time

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