Rural Health and Social Engagement

Research has shown that social isolation and loneliness have an overall impact on physical and mental health. While people of all ages experience social isolation, older adults have an increased risk of the most severe health consequences. The effect of social isolation is also exacerbated by rural implications and the potential lack of resources in areas that are hard to serve. Older adults and their caregivers living in rural areas may have limited access to transportation, necessary health care and other structural barriers. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the impact of social isolation on older adults living in rural communities. Various social, financial and demographic barriers and disparities impact older adults living in rural areas in a way that requires creative approaches to re-engage these communities.
To address the problem of social isolation and loneliness in rural areas, Elevance Health Inc. has partnered with USAging to develop and measure community-based, intensive support focused on the social determinants of health that affect older adults and their caregivers in select rural communities. Through this work, USAging and Elevance Health are seeking to increase awareness of the important role that nutrition, physical activity, social engagement, community support, health screening and vaccinations play in the overall health and well-being of older adults living in rural areas. To achieve this goal, USAging and Elevance Health will connect older adults and caregivers innovative programs and services offered by Area Agencies on Aging, and will provide funding for new technology and programming, with the hope of connecting older adults and caregivers to their communities and improve their overall health and well-being.
Partners: Elevance Health; the state associations of Area Agencies on Aging in California, Indiana, and Texas; and USAging are working collaboratively with three pilot communities in each state to focus intensive work to promote and build community support for the re-engagement of older adults and caregivers. Partners are working to motivate and mobilize community groups to take on activities that support the health, wellness, and engagement of older adults and caregivers.
Project Lead
Deborah Stone Walls, Chief, Programs and Services