Connecting with Socially Isolated Seniors

A Service Provider’s Guide

By Patricia Connolly Osage with Mary McCall, Ph.D.

ISBN 978-1-932529-73-9
120 pages
7.5 x 9.75
© 2012



2013 National Mature Media Awards Winner logoNothing causes seniors to experience a greater decline in health and emotional well-being than social isolation. Producing more than just feelings of loneliness and hopelessness, social isolation makes seniors less safe, puts them at greater risk for financial, emotional, or physical abuse, and may contribute to rapid deterioration. This book offers service providers valuable tools for combating these negative outcomes.

Written in concise, easy-to-understand language, this resource will help you identify seniors in the community and in residential care whose health and well-being are in jeopardy. Learn to recognize the symptoms of social isolation and find concrete suggestions for reaching out to those living in your community—but not thriving in it. Based on decades of experience with individuals living in senior housing, the book focuses on ways to address 10 factors that lead to social isolation, including:

  • physical health problems and disabilities
  • behavioral and cognitive health issues
  • gender disparities
  • loss of partner, friends, and pets
  • minority sexual orientation
  • language barriers

Validated by research, Connecting with Socially Isolated Seniors includes findings from a large survey of older adults living in independent senior housing communities and from focus groups conducted with senior caregivers, service coordinators, and activities directors. This resulting guide highlights the role of empathy and an inclusive attitude when exploring seniors’ needs—and the importance of getting to know each older adult as a unique human being—to be effective in supporting those who live alone. Facts, checklists, and a quiz help to easily identify individuals who are at risk for social isolation. Additionally, practical “How to Help” sections show how to intervene with specific, actionable suggestions.

Community-based senior housing providers, assisted living communities, area agencies on aging, and other state and regional aging services organizations will find Connecting with Socially Isolated Seniors to be an invaluable addition to their staff resources.

About Satellite Housing

About the Authors


Foreword, by Harry R Moody


1 Introduction

  • Aging in Place
  • How to Use This Book
  • Risk Factors Checklist

2 The Zen of Working with the Socially Isolated

  • How to Help

3 Health and Disabilities

  • Sara’s Story
  • How to Help

4 Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Health

  • How to Help

5 Emotional Health

  • Eddie’s Story
  • Positive Aging
  • How to Help

6 Substance Use

  • Marty’s Story
  • How to Help

7 Hoarding

  • How to Help

8 Intimate Partnerships

  • Risk of Suicide
  • Gary’s Story
  • How to Help

9 Gender

  • Robert’s Story
  • Transgender Individuals
  • How to Help

10 Friendships and Pets

  • Pet Companions and Animal Therapy
  • Barbara’s Story
  • How to Help

11 Transportation

  • How to Help

12 New to the Area

  • How to Help

13 Language and Culture

  • Montaha’s Story
  • Deaf Seniors
  • How to Help

14 Ideas for Action

  • Civic Engagement and Intergenerational Programs
  • Reminiscence
  • Spirituality
  • Technology

15 Three Final Concepts to Keep in Mind

  • 1 Be Persistent and Diligent
  • 2 Give Seniors Every Opportunity to Gain and Expand Their Senses of Purpose and Control
  • 3 Good Marketing and Participatory Planning Are Key to Successful Wellness Programs

Appendix: Knowledge of Social Isolation Quiz


Connecting with Socially Isolated Seniors: A Service Provider’s Guide (Osage excerpt) by HealthProPress

Patricia Connolly Osage is the Executive Director at LIFE ElderCare. For 41 years, LIFE has been serving seniors who want very much to continue living at home but who cannot afford the basic services they need to do so – and who have no one who can help.

Prior to this, Osage worked as the Director of Resident Services at Satellite Housing, a non-profit development agency providing affordable, service-enriched housing to the region’s lowest income seniors.

Satellite Housing has won awards for its housing design for deaf seniors as well as for its sustainable building practices. Its portfolio consists of 25 affordable housing communities that serve approximately 1,650 people in beautiful, affordable apartments across the San Francisco East Bay.

In total Patricia has worked for more than 22 years in various human service capacities including two years working in a primary health care clinic in Yemen. She has done direct case management for a number of different demographic and special need groups and ran the services department at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic in San Francisco just before coming to Satellite. She is an expert in the field of supporting services for formerly homeless adults and low-income seniors and frequently provides national and local presentations on topics related to best practices within these service fields.

In her position at Satellite Housing, Patricia ran Satellite Housing’s large services department that consists of three major components: wheelchair accessible transit, (non-clinical) case management, and activities programming. She developed expansive programs within both civic engagement and intergenerationally-based contexts to provide low income seniors with a wide range of opportunities for involvement with their community.

With her staff, Patricia collaboratively developed a unique logical model with the three intermediate goals for seniors of Optimum Health, Financial Stability, and Individual Well Being/Purposeful Living. The long term goal that encompasses all three is that seniors are able to not only age in place, but to also thrive in their community.

3 reviews for Connecting with Socially Isolated Seniors

  1. Administrator

    “This book shines the spotlight on how social isolation impacts the health and functioning of elders. More importantly, it identifies practical suggestions for providers to address this issue. It is a “must read” for staff who work with elders in congregate senior living settings.”
    Joanne Handy, RN, MS, President and CEO, Aging Services of California

  2. Administrator

    “Our youth-oriented society is very good at writing people off because they are old and gray, excluding them from the flow of life by making assumptions about their capacity to engage, contribute, and experience. But in fact, wrinkled skin and gray hair don’t define the person—the complex richness of the individual—any more than freckles and a bobbed haircut. Osage gets this. The path she has laid out for professionals who work with seniors is deeply humane, practical, and rewarding.”
    Wendy Peterson, Senior Services Coalition of Alameda County

  3. Administrator

    “As a former administrator of a 110 unit, HUD subsidized apartment building for low income older adults in San Francisco, I have personally witnessed how easily residents can become increasingly isolated as their health becomes frailer. Through the efforts of our service coordinator, we were quite successful at helping our frailest residents “age in place” but, looking back on it now, I realize we could have done more to help our residents “age in community” and, by doing so, reduce their isolation. The steps, strategies, ideas, and facts contained in this book will make it possible for any HUB subsidized senior apartment manager/service coordinator to reach out to their isolated residents in a variety of ways that are right for each individual and, by doing so, reduce their isolation, help foster community, and improve the quality of life of not only their isolated residents, but others as well.”
    Ray Earnest, MSW, LCSW, Pacifica, CA

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