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New Bipartisan Bill Proposes to Add Loneliness to Older Americans Act

Introduced in the House of Representatives, the bill includes screening and assessment, coordination of supportive services, and increased recognition of the negative effects of social isolation.

A bipartisan bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives that aims to address the issue of loneliness among older adults. The bill proposes the inclusion of screening older adults for loneliness as part of their healthcare. It also calls for the coordination of supportive services to mitigate the negative health effects associated with loneliness.

The Social Engagement and Network Initiatives for Older Relief (SENIOR) Act recently was announced by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rick Scott (R-FL) and Tina Smith (D-MN). The proposal would add loneliness to the definition of disease prevention and health promotion services under the Older Americans Act. It also would require the Department of Health and Human Service to create a report on the effects of loneliness on older adults and recommend solutions within five years.

The key components of the bill include:

  1. Screening for Loneliness: Healthcare providers would be required to include assessments of loneliness and social isolation in routine check-ups for older adults. This aims to identify individuals who may be at risk and ensure they receive the necessary support.

  2. Coordination of Supportive Services: The bill emphasizes the need for integrated care that connects older adults with community resources, social support networks, and mental health services. This could involve partnerships between healthcare providers, social service organizations, and local community groups.

  3. Addressing Health Effects: Recognizing the serious health consequences of loneliness, such as increased risks of depression, anxiety, and physical health issues, the bill seeks to implement interventions that can improve overall health outcomes for older adults.

The motivation behind the bill is grounded in research indicating that loneliness can significantly impact physical and mental health, particularly in older populations. By proactively addressing loneliness, the bill aims to improve the quality of life and health for older adults.

The new SENIOR Act is supported by the Coalition to End Social Isolation and Loneliness — with members including LeadingAge, Front Porch and LifeLoop, among others — as well as USAging, which represents the national network of Area Agencies on Aging, and the National Council on Aging, among other stakeholder groups. The legislation represents a proactive approach to supporting social connections and community for older adults.

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