New data from Statistics Canada compiled in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic confirms seniors are more susceptible to the harmful effects of social isolation. (Black Press Media File)

Canadian seniors isolated with fewer friends, less access to internet

Findings appear in assessment of health and social challenges associated with COVID-19

New data from Statistics Canada compiled in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic confirms seniors are more susceptible to the harmful effects of social isolation.

Drawing on a study of social capital, the data finds that more than 10 per cent of seniors aged 65 to 74 did not have close friends, a figure rising to 15 per cent among seniors aged 75 and older.

“Social isolation can be a particular challenge for those who are living alone, especially if they have little or no interaction with others,” the report notes. According to a recent study from Statistics Canada, social support and participation are associated with better mental and physical health outcomes.

Related to this phenomenon is the rise of the one-person household, which reached a historic first with the 2016 census. It marked the first time in Canadian history that one-person households became the most common type, accounting for 28 per cent of the 14.1 million private households in Canada.

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“Many of these one-person households were seniors, who often need additional support from family and friends for necessities such as food or health care,” it reads.”Among seniors living in private households, 33 per cent of senior women and 17.5 per cent of senior men were living alone in 2016.”

The report stresses the importance of technology for people living alone to stay connected with friends and family members, order basic necessities such as food or medication online, and seek information, but also finds an age gap, as not all Canadians have access to the Internet.

While 91 per cent of Canadians aged 15 and older used the Internet in 2018, the share was 71 per cent among seniors. Older women (68 per cent) were less likely than older men (75 per cent) to use the internet.


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