U.S. Senators Tina Smith, Marco Rubio, Rick Scott Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Combat Loneliness Among Seniors

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio and Rick Scott (both R-Fla.) introduced the Social Engagement and Network Initiatives for Older Relief (SENIOR) Act to combat loneliness among American seniors. In 2023, one in three adults aged 50-80 reported feeling isolated from others, including nearly 40 percent reporting they only have contact with people outside their home once per week. Social isolation and loneliness increase seniors’ risk for dementia by some 50 percent—and heart disease and stroke by about 30 percent.  Loneliness is also associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.

“People say we can’t combat loneliness through legislation, but I think that’s a ridiculous thing to say. Whether it’s Meals on Wheels or support for caregivers, there are so many different things we can do to support people as they age,” said Senator Smith. “Nobody deserves to feel so alone and isolated that their health suffers, especially seniors. We are more connected now than ever before – yet loneliness endures. We need to invest in programs that will combat loneliness in our older Americans and I’m glad to be leading this charge.”

“Seniors across the country are suffering from mental health issues and loneliness. That is why I am introducing the SENIOR Act to support Florida’s seniors by addressing this issue and bringing seniors back into our communities,” said Senator Rubio.

“Florida has a wonderful senior population that contributes so much to our great state. Combatting the feeling of isolation and loneliness for our aging community has endless benefits – from better mental and physical health to stronger, multigenerational relationships with families and communities. I’m proud to lead this bill with Senator Rubio to better support our seniors,” said Senator Scott.

The SENIOR Act would add loneliness as a disease eligible for programming under Older Americans Act. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Allow states to provide OAA grants to programs that are tackling loneliness, such as the foster grandparent program or Meals on Wheels
  • Require Administration for Community Living to provide technical assistance on implementing initiatives addressing loneliness
  • Requires a report on the impacts of loneliness on seniors and propose solutions for identified impacts, including an analysis of the relationship between the strength of multigenerational family units and loneliness in seniors.

Senator Smith has been a champion for policies combatting loneliness and social isolation. She and her staff have been touring the state hearing from Minnesota’s seniors on how she can update and modernize the Older Americans Act, which will be re-authorized in the coming year for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. She also leads legislation alongside Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to create a national strategy for social connection, which would build upon an advisory released by the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy declaring loneliness a public health epidemic.