Social isolation is an epidemic in the United States, affecting two-thirds of older adults and three-quarters of young people (as reported during COVID). Social isolation is linked to depression, poor sleep, and impaired immunity. It increases the risks of dementia by 50 percent, stroke by 32 percent, and coronary heart disease by 29 percent, and significantly increases the risk of premature death from all causes.

Isolation is affected by community design, social norms, public policy, and institutions that make it hard for people to build strong social connections.

With strategic investments, however, we can create places where people of all ages know and trust their neighbors, feel welcomed and represented, and have a strong sense of community. We can create socially connected communities.

Philanthropic leaders are well-positioned to help improve social connectedness. Here are eight ideas for getting started.

  1. Establish measures of social isolation and social connection that matter to your community
  2. Fund asset-focused approaches to support social connections in your community
  3. Support relationship-building and advocacy
  4. Elevate community-level solutions
  5. Integrate social well-being into all investments
  6. Advance the field of social connectivity
  7. Support age-friendly communities and comprehensive plans for aging
  8. Support digital inclusion

Read the full article about how funders can address social isolation by Risa Wilkerson at Grantmakers in Aging.