Build Healthy Places: Fast Fact: More than half of older adults 75+ live alone, increasing their risk for social isolation and negative health outcomes.
Currently, more than half (51 percent) of individuals aged 75 and older live alone. The risk of death for people who are socially isolated is as great as the risk of death for people who smoke 15 cigarettes a day, according to a study funded by Brigham Young University.
On average, 10 million older adults participate in activities at a senior center in their community each year. The National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC) identified that the transition of senior centers toward a wellness center model can increase older adults’ access to evidence-based health programs to support aging in the community. Nationwide, research conducted by NISC showed that 83 percent of senior centers provided evidence-based programs in 2015, the most popular of which were chronic disease management, balance training, and diabetes management. Access not only to wellness activities, but also to peer supports and education provided within their communities have proven to be most effective in increasing social connectedness and improving health outcomes for older adults. Many senior centers today have been reinventing themselves as senior wellness centers – like the Serving Seniors’ Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center – moving away from the traditional perceptions of senior centers (e.g. bingo and community meals) that lost appeal for much of the aging baby boomer population.
Through Serving Seniors’ Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center, low-income seniors in San Diego, California are offered a “one-stop” solution—through partnerships with more than 30 nonprofit organizations to provide access to health care , dental care, legal and financial support, and housing assistance, all under one roof. In addition, the center’s congregate (communal) meal program offers two nutritious meals, 365 days per year to every senior who enters its doors.