U.S. Senator Tina Smith Introduces Bill to Improve Mental and Physical Health Outcomes for Seniors

WASHINGTON, D.C. [10/23/19]Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) introduced legislation to address the negative mental and physical health effects—and the economic consequences—of social isolation among seniors.

More than 8 million older Americans experience social isolation, and nearly half of older adults feel isolated, alone, or left out. Socially isolated seniors face a 29 percent increased risk of mortality. And when it comes to federal Medicare spending, it’s $134 more per person per month for every socially isolated older adult. This is compared to Medicare spending on chronic conditions. Sen. Smith’s Older Americans Social Isolation and Loneliness Prevention Act calls for revising the Older Americans Act (OAA) so that there are supports and services in place to allow states to better coordinate to address social isolation and loneliness among older Americans.

You can access a summary of the bill here.

“Loneliness and social isolation isn’t just bad for older Americans’ mental and physical well-beingit’s bad for our economy too. Connectedness to communities is important for seniors and our economy to thrive,” said Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Health Committee. “The bill I’m introducing today would make it possible for states to pursue projects that address social isolation and loneliness, set up a working group with stakeholders about this issue, and support prevention and other supportive services for seniors in Minnesota and across the country.”

“We applaud Senator Smith for her leadership in supporting older Americans who are social isolated or lonely, or both. With millions of older adults suffering from chronic loneliness in the United States, the time is now to help individuals who are suffering, and the aging network plays a critical role in this effort. Our members—including consumer groups, patient advocates, health plans, community-based organizations, health care innovators, and more—look forward to working with Senator Smith and her colleagues in the Senate to pass this important legislation,” said Andrew MacPherson, Director of the Coalition to End Social Isolation & Loneliness.

Sen. Smith’s bill proposes the following revisions to the OAA:

·Supports screening for the prevention of social isolation and loneliness and coordination of supportive services and health care to address social isolation and loneliness;

·Increases the focus of the Assistant Secretary for Aging on social isolation and loneliness through long-term planning and convening an interagency working group with aging network stakeholders on this topic; and

·Allows states to pursue grant funding for projects that address social isolation and loneliness among older individuals.

The Older Americans Social Isolation and Loneliness Prevention Act is supported by the National Association for Area Agencies on Aging (N4A), the Coalition to End Social Isolation & Loneliness, the National Council on Aging (NCOA), Meals on Wheels America, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, National Association of Nutrition and Aging, Education Development Center, Jewish Federations of North America, Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies, Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER), and Members of the Rural Aging Advisory Council, including Tivity Health, Health eVillages, MIT AgeLab, Jefferson College of Population Health, Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, Valley Area Agency on Aging, Sharecare, National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs, Grantmakers in Aging, Healthcare Leadership Council, Mercy Health Care, National Rural Health Association, National Minority Quality Forum, NashvilleHealth, DoucetSolutions, YMCA of Portage, Lyft, Better Medicare Alliance, American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Comcast, Carefully, Inc., Motion Picture & Television Fund of America, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, and Lois Drapin of The Drapin Group LLC.

You can access a summary of the bill here.