The Los Angeles Department of Aging and Element3 Health Monday jointly announced the launch of the End Loneliness Initiative, a collaboration aimed at curtailing the rise of social isolation and loneliness in older adults during COVID-19 Safer at Home measures.
Loneliness and isolation were a significant factor in older adults’ health before COVID-19 and have been exacerbated by the pandemic, Department of Aging General Manager Laura Trejo said.
“To protect themselves against the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles, older adults find themselves increasingly cut off from their friends, families and communities,” she said. “This has put them at increased risk of social isolation, loneliness and depression. The End Loneliness Initiative could not have come at a better time. We are excited to work with the End Loneliness Initiative to provide older adults with social activities that they enjoy and can do from home.”
As a founding partner of the End Loneliness Initiative, the Department of Aging said it will help provide free solutions to provide meaningful, safe social connections for the region’s 1.2 million older adults.
Element3 Health spearheaded the initiative to address the loneliness epidemic, focused on providing older adults with free access to social activities they enjoy, such as virtual chess, embroidery, dance and tai chi, to keep them engaged while social distancing.
Social isolation and loneliness carry the same health risk as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, as well as an increased risk of premature death, officials said.
“As devastating as COVID-19 is, formidable health consequences are still looming on the horizon,” Element3 Health Chairman and CEO David Norris said. “Active, healthy older adults have been finding themselves socially isolated, physically inactive and alone. If we don’t do something now, a `second pandemic’ of heart disease, cancer and other loneliness and isolation-related illnesses will hit us in the years to come.”
The End Loneliness Initiative includes a coalition of health industry leaders, healthy-aging experts and others who are dedicated to ending social isolation and loneliness in older adults, according to the Department of Aging.