Learn more about the impacts of social isolation.

Older adults who stay socially connected are known to lead happier, healthier lives. But what’s the difference between loneliness and social isolation? What are the risks, and how can you tell if you, a friend, or a neighbour is at risk?

Learn how we can all play a role in staying connected and creating opportunities for others to make connections, using the following resources and tools. Click on the plus sign/heading to view the information.

Questions and answers

What is social isolation?

Social isolation occurs when you have a lack of social contacts and few people to interact with regularly. Older adults are at higher risk for social isolation and loneliness due to changes in health and social connections that can come with growing older, hearing, vision, and memory loss, disability, trouble getting around, and/or the loss of family and friends.

What is loneliness?

Loneliness is the feeling of being alone, which can happen regardless of the amount of social contact you have. We have all felt lonely at times, but it becomes a problem when it occurs frequently or even chronically, negatively impacting health and functioning. 

How are social isolation and loneliness different?

Social isolation and loneliness are different, but related. It’s possible to live alone and not feel lonely or be socially isolated. It’s also possible to feel lonely while among other people, or even with a seemingly large social network.

How can social isolation affect a person’s health?

Social isolation and chronic loneliness are major risk factors that have been linked with poor physical and mental health status: increased blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diminished immune system functioning, depression, anxiety, poorer cognitive functioning, increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and mortality. 

Why is social isolation particularly important for older adults?

Older adults are at higher risk for social isolation and loneliness due to changes in health and social connections that can come with growing older, hearing, vision, and memory loss, disability, trouble getting around, and/or the loss of family and friends.

What are some factors that can lead to social isolation?

Older adults are at higher risk for social isolation and loneliness due to changes in health and social connections that can come with growing older. Many factors can increase the risk of social isolation, including:

  • living alone
  • being 80 or older
  • having compromised health 
  • having multiple chronic health problems
  • having no children or contact with family
  • lacking access to transportation
  • living with low income
  • changing family structures
  • being left behind by younger people migrating for work
  • location of residence
  • experiencing critical life transitions such as retirement, death of a spouse, or losing a driver’s license
  • lacking awareness of or access to community services and programs
  • being a caregiver 
  • having a lower level of education and being born outside of Canada are also identified as risk factors for seniors’ social isolation 

What can you do to protect yourself and others against social isolation?

For older adults, social connections and community support are essential. We can protect ourselves and others against social isolation when we: 

  • have the communication skills and resources to find and obtain needed services
  • are able to build satisfying personal relationships
  • have a social support network
  • feel connected to and valued by others
  • experience meaningful roles in society

What are the signs of social Isolation?

These assessment tools provide more information about the signs of social isolation:


Understanding loneliness and social isolation

The resources below will provide you with information to learn more about social isolation and the impact it can have on older adults.

Making connections

The resources below include toolkits and other suggestions for making connections to address social isolation experienced by older adults.

Finding support

  • Essential numbers for Seniors in Calgary, Age-Friendly Calgary. This is a handy, colourful one-page document that lists all the numbers older adults and their families or care partners can use to quickly get access to the right help, right away.
  • 211, If you need support and resources, please reach out to 211 via phone, text or online chat. A Community Resource Specialist can work with you to see what community resources and services are available and work to get you connected with support. This service is open 24 hours, 7 days a week.
  • Distress Centre, If you feel you are in a crisis right now, please call the Distress Centre. Phone 403-266-HELP (4357). This service is open 24 hours, 7 days a week.
  • Help in Tough Times, includes multiple support services provided by Alberta Health Services Addictions and Mental Health including:
    • Togetherall online peer support community to support mental health. (Free-of-charge to people in Alberta)
  • Wellness Together Canada Wellness Together Canada connects you to resources, coaching, counselling, and a community of support to help you through the pandemic.
  • Call 403-SENIORS (403-736-4677) for Information, advice and help accessing programs and benefits for older adults.

The Age-Friendly Calgary social isolation awareness campaign is a collaboration between The City and community partners as part of the Age-Friendly Calgary initiative. 

Contact Age-Friendly Calgary by email: