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Medicare Spends More on Socially Isolated Adults


June 8, 2018

“Medicare Spends More on Socially Isolated Older Adults.” That’s what the headline said. I felt compelled to read and find out more. It’s been long proven that socially isolated adults generally are in poorer health and face earlier death than more connected and engaged adults.  So, it made sense to me that Medicare spending would be higher on socially isolated seniors, but I’d never seen a study on the issue before.  That’s because this was the first study to look at whether social isolation resulted in increased health care spending. And the answer is a resounding yes.

Researchers from Harvard and Stanford Universities teamed up with the AARP Public Policy Institute to explore the relationship between social isolation and Medicare spending.  Their research showed that social isolation among older adults is associated with an estimated $6.7 billion in additional Medicare spending each year.

The researchers’ conclusions have many policy implications that could result in significant savings to the Medicare program. Besides the monetary costs, the human costs of social isolation are also high, with socially isolated seniors having poorer health and higher mortality risks.

That’s what makes the programs at Senior Resources important in reducing social isolation.

Our programs are often not thought of in terms of reducing social isolation, but that’s exactly what they do.  Our Senior Companion program provides social interaction for both the companion and the senior client.  The Foster Grandparent program allows the senior volunteer to feel connected to the community through service at a school.  Our Wellness Center program provides a meal along with socialization.  Our Meals on Wheels clients, who are the most likely to be socially isolated, benefit from the human interaction that a volunteer delivering their meal provides.

So, until the policy makers figure out how to reduce Medicare spending by decreasing social isolation, we’ll just keep on doing our part to keep seniors in our community connected.

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