Access to reliable transportation is key to supporting the health and well-being of older adults and helps ensure they are able live in their homes and communities, which is where they overwhelmingly prefer to be. Yet access to adequate, accessible transportation is a major challenge. Older adults who are able to maintain connections to family, friends and the broader community are more likely to enjoy the benefits of community life. However, we often associate our ability to live independently with our ability to drive. So, what happens if, one day, you are no longer able to drive?
Older adults who no longer drive are more likely to miss medical appointments, are less likely to engage in essential activities such as grocery shopping and are even less likely to continue social activities ranging from attending worship services to visiting friends and family. Left unaddressed, this social isolation can lead to loneliness and can have negative impacts on physical and mental health.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 24 percent of older adults were experiencing social isolation and 43 percent reported feelings of loneliness. Researchers predict that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in older adults feeling the mental and physical health effects of social isolation and loneliness in greater numbers than other age groups, in part because medical guidance advises older adults to embrace physical distancing practices at higher rates.
And that’s why the Eldercare Locator and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) have made social engagement opportunities that are available through the Aging Network the focus of this year’s Home for the Holidays national campaign. The centerpiece of this year’s campaign is a consumer brochure, Staying Connected and Healthy During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Resources for Older Adults and Caregivers, which highlights the importance of social connection, its impact on our physical and mental health—and ways the Aging Network can help older adults connect to their communities during this time of limited in-person social interactions.
There are many opportunities for older adults to remain engaged and connected to their friends, family and community during the pandemic. Local Area Agencies on Aging and their partners are ready to help find ways for you to stay engaged in community life.
If you are unable to find the resources you need or you have additional questions, contact the Eldercare Locator, through its website, eldercare.acl.gov, and national Call Center at 1-(800)-677-1116 or NADTC. The Eldercare Locator can inform and connect older adults to programs and services that provide a variety of ways to stay connected to others in their communities to reduce social isolation and loneliness.
To learn more about guidance and resources for older adults who plan or need to stop driving, take a look at NADTC’s publication, Before You Give Up The Keys: Create a Roadmap for Transportation Independence. This brochure introduces you to community transportation services and provides information to consider when making transportation decisions.
For more information about the Home for the Holidays campaign and other local resources available for older adults, visit n4a.org/h4h2020.
This blog was written by Caitlin Musselman, Senior Communications Associate at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a).