When communities around the world responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with restrictions, people of all ages felt the struggle of being distant from their friends, family, and everyday acquaintances. But the end of widespread lockdowns didn’t mean those emotions just disappeared. By 2023, more than a third of U.S. adults between the ages of 50 and 80 still reported feeling isolated at least some of the time, according to a University of Michigan poll, up from a pre-pandemic rate of 27%.
Social isolation and loneliness are related, but also a little different from each other:
- Living in social isolation means you rarely interact with other people.
- Being lonely means you feel disconnected from others, whether you have regular interactions or not.
These situations can have real consequences for your health: A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) noted that isolation and loneliness are associated with increased risks of premature death, dementia, heart disease, stroke, and depression.
Fortunately, there’s help out there to make meaningful connections with others. Along with researching events or services in your area, it’s a good idea to explore some of the benefits that are available through health insurance. Here are some possibilities to consider:
1. Community Events (In Person or Online)
No matter where you live, there are probably groups planning regular events that are fun, educational, and a great way to meet new people. Check the website for your city, park district, or a local meet-up group. Consider getting in touch for updates about activities like:
- Group lunches
- Presentations from experts on interesting topics
- Musical performances
- Wine and cheese nights
For a lot of us, it’s much more convenient to open a laptop or turn on a tablet device than to plan a meet-up in person. Fortunately, there are vibrant, welcoming online communities set up specifically for older adults looking to make friends and learn new skills.
Some of the activities you can participate in include:
- Live video chats to meet people and discuss topics like current events
- Health and wellness classes
- Cooking demonstrations
- Virtual get-togethers to enjoy music and the arts
2. Fitness Classes
Insurance plans commonly include a fitness and wellness benefit that gives you access to gyms across the country, plus other resources to help you stay active. There are in-person and online fitness classes designed for people at all levels of strength, skill, and endurance. Depending on your health needs, you can choose to focus on strength training, cardio, flexibility, balance, or range of motion.
These classes are not only a great way to maintain physical fitness, but also to improve emotional well-being. Research shows that exercise helps to manage stress, depression, and anxiety; plus, working out with a group can keep you motivated and make you feel supported. You’ll likely start looking forward to seeing your classmates and instructor regularly, whether you make the trip to the gym or join in from home.
3. Companion Care Services
Some insurance plans feature the option to access companion care. Using these services, you can request a helper to come directly to your home and complete specified tasks. For example, a companion may:
- Handle light chores like cleaning, gardening, preparing meals, and caring for a pet.
- Help you set up and use devices like computers or phones.
- Drive you to run errands.
- Just spend time chatting or playing a game.
KFF reported that more than 65 Medicare Advantage plans work with the company Papa Inc. to provide companion care for thousands of people across the country. This can be an excellent way to find a hand with some of the little tasks that are giving you trouble while also getting to know someone who cares.
Whatever your preferences or health situation, there are fun, fulfilling ways to keep meeting and engaging with new people. Taking advantage of those opportunities could make a big difference in your happiness and your overall health. Be sure to look into what’s going on near you and any benefits that are available through your insurance.
GoHealth is a leading health insurance marketplace and Medicare-focused digital health company. Enrolling in a health insurance plan can be confusing for customers, and the seemingly small differences between plans can lead to significant out-of-pocket costs or lack of access to critical medicines and even providers. GoHealth combines cutting-edge technology, data science, and deep industry expertise to build trusted relationships with consumers and match them with the healthcare policy and carrier that is right for them. Since its inception, GoHealth has enrolled millions of people in Medicare plans and individual and family plans. For more information, visit GoHealth.com.