The Launch of ruralage.com Helps Combat Loneliness

Takeaways From the Connectivity Summit on Rural Aging

Think back to a time where you felt as though you were alone, cut off from the world. Perhaps it was the lack of transportation or resources to meet the need you had at the moment, or perhaps it was the absence of a simple smile to uplift your day—especially from a familiar face. These are the things nearly one in four Americans over the age of 65 lack simply because of their desire to “age in place,” at home, in a rural community.

Over a couple of days in August, Tivity Health assembled influential leaders across local and national government, public and private academia, leaders in the healthcare and transportation sectors to solve the issue of social isolation at the Connectivity Summit on Rural Aging. Those in attendance deemed it one of today’s “modern epidemics.”

Though the need has reached epidemic levels, the solutions proposed are quite actionable. Attendees of the Summit called for collaboration of leaders, both public and private, to share their experiences, successes, and insights. As Representative Joe Kennedy put it, “There’s no one organization that says they’ve met the need of the community.” There’s work to be done.

Ride sharing service, Lyft, for instance, shared how up to 25% of their rides are for underserved populations to close the gap in the first or last mile to public transportation options and nearly 15% of ridership is made up of rides requested by other people – primarily caregivers. Cara James, a representative from the government organization, CMS, shared a case study of a program implemented in UK called The Silver Line. This hotline service for older adults offers help or a friendly voice. Utilization of the service is primarily at night or the weekends—and many of the calls are motivated by the simple desire for a human connection. Since the program’s implementation, depression rates among the population have decreased.

Breakout sessions explored the need for ongoing collaboration and pilot endeavors, common measurement standards, and overall public awareness of the issue. Specifically, the leaders in attendance called for a destination for interactive tools, regular updates on success stories, and aligned benchmarking or diagnostic standards.

In partnership with Tivity, Health eVillages and the Rural Aging Council, Isobar helped launch ruralage.com, a destination for collaboration on Rural Aging. The current version of the hub highlights case studies of Rural Aging Council member organizations, and future implementations of the site will incorporate the solutions identified at the Summit.

Perhaps one of the most inspiring takeaways from the event was recapped by Mary Flipse, Chief Legal offer of Tivity Health, “Loneliness is a toxic issue, but the cure for it is in our own hands.” As a private citizen or an employee of a public or private entity, we all are in the position to prevent isolation. Visit ruralage.com to learn more about the topic and how you can get involved.

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