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Building connections: Reducing social isolation for seniors in public housing

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Social isolation is a predictor of adverse physical and mental health outcomes among low-income seniors. Inadequate social support networks and physical environment are key social isolation risk factors facing this population. Municipal planners, decision-makers, health authorities, and housing providers and administrators are confronted by a gap in their understanding about policy interventions that reduce social isolation. A literature review and in-depth interviews highlight best practices for social programming, system navigation, and built environment that improve social connectedness and slow health decline. Key considerations are identified from seven in-depth interviews and seven case studies. Four highly-effective interventions are assessed based on four criteria; ability to increase seniors’ social network size and quality, cost, implementation complexity, and long-term effectiveness. This study recommends a phased approach to implementing all four alternatives in the immediate, short-term, and long-term, along with assigning roles for key stakeholders.
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