Scoping Review of the Literature Social Isolation of Seniors 2013-2014


Social isolation is being examined in Canada and abroad and promising practices are emerging. However, preliminary literature scans suggest that data remain limited and that more studies of efficacy and effectiveness are needed to improve evidence-based interventions.

Numerous documents recommended further research in various areas associated with social isolation, such as addressing psychological and emotional characteristics of urinary incontinence (Ramage-Morin & Gilmour, 2013), and interventions for other common causes of aging-related disability and loneliness, such as mobility issues and vision loss (Medical Advisory Secretariat, 2008).

Research that would develop a profile of seniors who are socially isolated, which describes characteristics and consequences of social isolation at various levels (individual, community and societal levels), as well as national consultations on social isolation among seniors is recommended by Hall (2004). Hall (2004) also discussed further investigation into sustainable funding and evaluation components for social programs and services. In addition, it was recommended that evaluating existing programs at the community, provincial and national levels and scanning these programs/services to determine where gaps remain is needed (Hall, 2004; Cattan et al., 2005).

The British Columbia Ministry of Health (2004) suggested future research directions that included exploring the experiences of different ethnicities with loneliness and social isolation; examining the interaction of loneliness with poverty; focusing research on transportation; investigating the experience of caregivers of spouses who have a disability; identifying direct linkages between social isolation and service usage; and exploring what elements of social support enhance health.

Research evidence is necessary to guide program and policy development as well as to justify funding for program evaluation to ensure that programs addressing social isolation are able to demonstrate efficacy, effectiveness and accountability (MacCourt, 2007).

This scoping review has identified that, while there is a considerable amount of knowledge pertaining to the causes, consequences, services and programs addressing social isolation of seniors, numerous gaps remain.

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