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Mitigating loneliness – what is being, can be done?

You may notice that it is the Christmas cheery season. [Rant on] Isn’t it great to see the sleigh-bell imagery, decoration excess, and TV Christmas-caroling crowds? Observe all the promotion, advertising and shopping discounts for must-have stuff. One guesses that Christmas must matter to self-identifying Christians, now only 75% of the US population, down from 80% in 2006. Yet the Christmas season is not about religion. It is a platform – a springboard for irrational spending, financial hangovers, 30% of annual retail sales, and the result -- goods that the recipient doesn’t want, need and can’t store – and that the giver can’t afford. 

Meanwhile many of the relatives who are aging may be far away. They are becoming ever older, perhaps ever poorer, nearly half of the women aged 75+ living alone. As for grandparents, 40% of them are more than 200 miles from at least one grandchild.  What can they afford to spend? What do they need most? One could argue that they need connection – and the efforts to provide this to date, with or without technology, seem inadequate in the context of the potential for loneliness and isolation.

Phone calls – make it ring -- not with telemarketers or surveys. You must have read about The Silver Line in Britain, staffed by volunteers to take inbound calls from seniors who just want to talk to someone. Says Dame Esther Rantzen: “Let’s leave loneliness behind in 2016.”  What similar efforts are in the US that match the 2 million calls in 2.5 years record of The Silver Line? Well, there’s this initiative announced this month from AARP Foundation and the Area Agencies on Aging, who plan to identify those at risk of loneliness and associated health problems. Is that enough?

Automated calling processes and related technology. Okay, so let’s recap a few tech-enabled calling processes:  Care Angel provides an IVR-based service that can be white-labeled by partners.  GreatCall offers automated check-in callsSentinalCALL (“Family in a box”) was just launched this month, and the Iamfine service was launched earlier in 2016; there are no doubt, many others. Finding these services may not be easy -- Caring.com says to start by calling the police department.

Let’s see a mix of automated calls, outbound live calls, and a free inbound service.  How about collaboration among all these providers and agencies? How about a leading PERS provider or monitoring organization setting the (ring) tone? Or how about an organization that represents the needs of older adults launching an initiative like the Silver Line? Or if all of this already exists, how about getting articles into USA Today or other publications? Don’t just recap and whine about the problem of loneliness, but talk about the real interaction solutions.  It is one thing to see this image of an elderly woman outside.  It’s quite another to consider all those who are homebound inside, whose phones aren’t ringing. When different search engines were asked about "Loneliness at Christmas elderly” -- all of the articles were about the UK.  “Loneliness holidays elderly” retrieves the US links.  [Rant off]


Thanks for raising the issue of senior isolation which few people talk about.
We at TeleVisit have been tackling this for the past 5 years, and believe we
have developed a solution that mitigates isolation by using technology not to
replace people but to leverage them to build community, and make technology
disappear for the elderly.

Matt Perry wrote about us in the California Health Report.... "What if you
had the perfect technology solution for isolated seniors… and nobody wanted


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