“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, loneliness and social isolation were recognized as threats to people’s health, particularly with the growing senior population in the US. Pre-pandemic research by Kaiser Family Foundation showed that 22% of US adults always or often feel lonely. These feelings have become more prevalent recently: the Medicare Current Beneficiaries Survey found that more than one-third of Medicare beneficiaries reported feeling less socially connected to friends and family since the start of the pandemic.

Loneliness and social isolation can pose negative physical and mental health risks—in some cases being as dangerous as obesity or smoking. Stopping driving is one risk factor for increased social isolation. According to a Journal of Aging and Health study, older adults who recently became nondrivers were twice as likely to be more socially isolated than those who had not been driving for a longer time. 

Luckily, there are many ways to address social isolation. Health plans can, for example, add specific benefits to help their members (both driving and nondriving), such as transportation and meal-delivery solutions. These help people take back their independence—for instance, in getting to their healthcare appointments. 

Multiple companies are supporting health plans with this in numerous ways. One is Papa, a nationwide provider that pairs older adults and families with trained Papa Pals, who, among other things, might be able to drive the older adults to appointments. Another is GoGoGrandparent, which provides rides, meal and grocery delivery to consumers, governments, and Medicare Advantage Plans.

A similarity among these solutions is that all of them can be integrated with Uber Health. Uber Health enables access to care for those who need it the most, by connecting patients with transportation and other logistics services with the same consumer experience as the Uber app, while addressing logistical and structural barriers such as language barriers and lack of tech proficiency. On-demand rides, like those found on Uber, can prevent loneliness and create opportunities for connection with family, friends, and community.”

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