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November 06, 2019

Congress wants to tackle Medicare beneficiaries’ loneliness

Credit: Becker’s Hospital Review, Emily Rappleye

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously voted Oct. 2 to pass the Dignity in Aging Act, which includes a provision to reduce social isolation among Medicare beneficiaries.  

The Dignity in Aging Act would reauthorize the Older Americans Act, a law passed in 1965 that ensures seniors have access to basic needs like food and transportation. The House included a bill from Reps. David Trone, D-Md., and Tim Walberg, R-Mich., that targets the negative effects of social isolation on health.

Research indicates loneliness can increase the risk of dementia and depression, and negatively affect the immune system. “Social isolation and loneliness are two distinct, although related, conditions, and research shows that they have a greater adverse effect on health than better-known risk factors such as obesity and smoking” said Arthur Evans Jr., PhD, CEO of the American Psychological Association, in a press release.

The bill introduced by Mr. Trone and Mr. Walberg would establish an advisory council to review current efforts to address the health effects of social isolation for seniors and identify challenges, solutions and best practices for those efforts.