Episode 3: Social Isolation and Loneliness – How a Seniors Centre Without Walls changed the telephone experience for isolated older adults


Today’s guest, Dr. Nancy Newall, is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department at Brandon University whose research focuses on loneliness and social isolation and how these experiences affect the health and well-being of older adults. Recent research also explores what types of interventions can help older people become less lonely or isolated and more socially connected.

We’re all aging, and everyone’s talking about it!

Key Takeaways

[:38] We welcome Nancy to the podcast and ask what sparked her initial interest in the very complex issue of social isolation.

[4:02] Nancy touches on some of the risk factors that place older adults at a higher risk of social isolation, namely widowhood and health concerns; she notes, however, that loneliness is not an inevitable part of aging at all.

[5:47] Income and education level are proxy measurements for socio-economic status — which can limit a person’s ability to do what they want to do — and as such, become a factor for social isolation.

[7:06] Nancy’s study showed that we can better predict the people who will become lonely than its opposite, and she talks about some protective factors from social isolation.

[9:09] Nancy dives into the process evaluation work she did with the Senior Center Without Walls, a very interesting telephone resource program that reaches the most extremely isolated people in our communities.

[11:30] The Senior Center Without Walls bypassed many mobility issues or physical isolation by being accessible in home and offers an incredible variety of services that range from book clubs to classes, to coffee talks.

[13:45] Nancy touches on how she found out they were reaching extremely isolated individuals, people with no contact or friends and how that realization ended up shaping her future research interests.

[16:55] The fact that this free program had minimal access barriers meant that the result was that people wanted more programming, evenings, weekends, etc. and Nancy was able to isolate the benefits of this initiative.

[21:01] Nancy talks about future avenues for the program, including more web-based initiatives, but they will depend on the feedback from the population.

[23:57] Thank you for tuning in to the podcast and tune in for the next episode for the continued interview. Until next time, subscribe, rate, and share!