The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) a 501(c)(3) membership association representing America’s national network of 622 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) and providing a voice in the nation’s capital for the more than 260 Title VI Native American aging programs. The primary mission of n4a is to build the capacity of our members so they can help older adults and people with disabilities live with dignity and choices in their homes and communities for as long as possible.
As part of our work to address social isolation, n4a administers engAGED: The National Resource Center for Engaging Older Adults. engAGED, which is funded by the Administration for Community Living and guided by a Project Advisory Committee, is a national effort to increase the social engagement of older adults, people with disabilities and caregivers by expanding and enhancing the Aging Network’s capacity to offer social engagement. Through engAGED we identify and disseminate information about emerging trends and develop social engagement resources, tools and practices that the Aging Network can customize for use in their communities.
Social isolation and loneliness have increasingly been recognized as critical public health issues impacting the lives of millions of older adults, people with disabilities and caregivers. Older adults are more likely to experience life events and transitions that decrease the size of their networks, including family dispersal, health issues, cognitive decline, role losses or changes, mobility limitations and living alone. Research has also found that people with disabilities are more likely to report loneliness, social isolation and low social support compared to their peers without disabilities, and family and friend caregivers may also be more vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness.
While social isolation was a critical issue prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the pandemic has amplified the importance of addressing social isolation. Research suggests that remaining socially engaged improves the quality of life and is associated with better physical, mental and emotional health, avoiding the negative impacts of social isolation and loneliness.
The Aging Network and partner organizations provide extensive programming to meet the social engagement needs of the diverse populations they serve, and many have adapted their programs and activities to safely serve their communities throughout the pandemic. To assist organizations and communities with providing social engagement opportunities for older adults, people with disabilities and caregivers to boost overall health and well-being, n4a, through engAGED, helps equip Aging Network organizations with the training, technical assistance and outreach information needed.
Through engAGED, we develop and share resources to help Aging Network organizations offer social engagement opportunities for older adults, people with disabilities and caregivers, to help prevent social isolation and loneliness. engAGED holds monthly webinars, offers bi-monthly small group technical assistance calls, produces a monthly newsletter, identifies and shares best and emerging practices holds an annual Virtual Summit and develops consumer-facing materials for organizations to use in their social engagement outreach efforts.
To help identify innovative social engagement programs that serve older adults, people with disabilities or caregivers, engAGED is in the process of developing the Innovations Hub. This will be a searchable online clearinghouse used to facilitate the sharing and replication of best and emerging social engagement programs.