Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH, looks at the effects of social isolation on older adults during Covid-19

Monday, May 4, 2020

The cover story of the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Columbia Magazine is dedicated to "What We Have Learned From the Pandemic (So Far)." In the issue, Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH, a gerontologist and director of the Columbia Aging Center, explores the effects of social isolation on older adults in her piece "Understanding the Three Types of Loneliness."

Older adults are prone to three specific kinds of loneliness. The first is brought on by a lack of intergenerational contact. “We need all age groups to interact to create meaningful lives,” Fried says. Second, aging adults feel lonely when they aren’t able to contribute to society. While others might bond with colleagues or schoolmates as they work or attend class online, the elderly are not likely to have such outlets. And finally, aging adults are prone to what Fried calls an existential loneliness. 

Like so much this pandemic has laid bare, the health consequences of loneliness across all age groups, but particularly for older adults, are real and in need of new approaches so that we can move to greater societal cohesion and connectedness.