U.S. Senator Tina Smith Recognizes West End Seniors Concerns

A study group of West End seniors, working with resident physicians from United Family Medicine, is forming to attempt to identify seniors in the community who are socially isolated due to age, mobility problems, lack of transportation, income, by a desire for solitude, or other issues. The project will explore the linkage among services currently available, the community health issues involved, the interface between doctors and seniors and whether or not recommendations for changes should be made for medical or community health practices. [Community Reporter, August 2019]

Senator Tina Smith has introduced a bill to improve mental and physical health outcomes for seniors, seeking more resources to address the growing problems of social isolation and loneliness experienced by many.

A growing amount of research is demonstrating that social isolation can cause negative mental and physical health effects and accompanying economic consequences for seniors and their families. More than 8 million older Americans experience social isolation, and nearly half of older adults feel isolated, alone, or left out. Socially isolated seniors face a 29 percent increased risk of mortality. And federal Medicare spending is $134 more per person per month for every socially isolated older adult. This is compared to Medicare spending on chronic conditions.

Sen. Smith’s Older Americans Social Isolation and Loneliness Prevention Act calls for revising the Older Americans Act (OAA) so that there are supports and services in place to allow states to better coordinate to address social isolation and loneliness among older Americans.

Senator Smith is a member of the Senate Health Committee. She describes her hopes for the bill: “The bill I’m introducing would make it possible for states to pursue projects that address social isolation and loneliness, set up a working group with stakeholders about this issue, and support prevention and other supportive services for seniors in Minnesota and across the country.”

Sen. Smith shared her legislation with the Minnesota Department of Human Services for input, and her bill would allow relevant state departments and agencies — including regional area agencies on aging, the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Minnesota Board on Aging — nonprofit agencies, institutions of higher education, and other organizations to pursue grants for projects that address social isolation and loneliness among seniors.

To learn more about the effort and read a copy of the bill go to smith.senate.gov.

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