Aging Services Can Curb Social Isolation Due to COVID-19, GSA Member Tells Senate

For Immediate Release
June 11, 2020

Contact: Todd Kluss
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Speaking today at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine Professor Peter S. Reed, PhD, MPH, FGSA, told lawmakers about a new statewide coordinated aging services effort in Nevada to enable older adults to stay home and stay safe while maintaining access to essentials of everyday life, health care, and social engagement.

Senators convened the hearing, titled “Combating Social Isolation and Loneliness During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” to investigate the growing isolation and loneliness older adults across the country are experiencing due to COVID-19 and explore what can be done to better assist this population.

Reed is the director of the Sanford Center for Aging at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine and a professor of community health sciences, as well as a fellow of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA). His testimony focused on the recent launch of Nevada CAN, or the Nevada COVID-19 Aging Network Rapid Response. It is intended to identify and respond to older adult needs by targeting three priority focus areas: essentials of daily life such as food and medication, telehealth services, and social support.

Reed shared the successful outcomes of one Nevada CAN program, the NEST Collaborative, which stands for Nevada Ensures Support Together and is led by another GSA member, Jennifer Carson, PhD, who serves as director of the Dementia Engagement, Education and Research Program in the University of Nevada, Reno School of Community Health Sciences. The NEST Collaborative is a volunteer mobilization to offer one-on-one check in calls and peer groups to homebound elders using virtual technology (telephone and internet).

“Each of these volunteer services is designed to reduce social isolation and build reciprocal support, embracing the idea that elders are themselves a valuable resource to the community,” Reed said. “The check-in calls and peer groups help fulfill one of the most basic needs in an elder’s life: the need to be known by, and meaningfully connected to, other people.”

According to a new finding from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, nearly one quarter of older adults are socially isolated, and more than 40 percent report being lonely. During the COVID-19 pandemic, early studies have suggested that for some older adults, social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders are resulting in increased rates of social isolation and loneliness, which can have serious, even deadly, consequences for their health and well-being.

“This time of social distancing does not mean elders must be socially isolated,” Reed said. “Nevada CAN and the NEST Collaborative are examples of how to help elders stay meaningfully engaged and connected to their communities.”


The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,500+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational unit, the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education.