Two weeks ago, the U.S. Surgeon General declared loneliness a public health epidemic. The advisory notes that “even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately half of U.S. adults reported experiencing measurable levels of loneliness” while noting the startling fact that lack of social connection can increase the risk for premature death as much as smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day. Additional risk factors according to the report include:
- Loneliness increases the risk of premature death by 26% while social isolation increases it by 29%.
- Poor or insufficient social connection is associated with an increased risk of disease, including a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke; an increased risk for anxiety, depression, and dementia; and an increased susceptibility to viruses and respiratory illnesses
There’s an important distinction drawn in the data between loneliness and social isolation. Social isolation is a lack of social relationships, group memberships, and infrequent social interaction, while loneliness is a mental state derived from an unmet need between a person’s preferred and actual social experience. Though they are related they are not the same, and social isolation often leads to loneliness.
CATIE’s Impact on Senior Living Communities
Currently, the highest rates of social isolation are found among older adults. Some risk factors that contribute to this include poor health (mental or physical) and living alone. Status Solutions invented the CATIE platform not only to combat those risk factors but to prevent them from happening in the first place. This is where the CATIE platform comes in. The three vital components of social connection according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are:
- Structure: The number and variety of relationships and frequency of interactions.
- Function: The degree to which relationships serve various needs.
- Quality: The positive and negative aspects of relationships and interactions.
CATIE is a tool that, among other capabilities, helps residents to have a direct line of communication with staff, family members, and other residents to ensure structure in the user’s life. This is especially important for those with mobility issues as it allows for a vast network and regular connections with people who can fulfill multiple relationship functions. The system also allows users to keep tabs on community updates through a senior-friendly dashboard with the touch of a button. While no tool can guarantee the quality of any relationship, it’s a given fact that putting time into relationships strengthens their quality, and that’s one thing with which CATIE assists: allowing more time for connection even across distances.
In a study of CATIE’s success at a Texas senior living facility during the pandemic, it was found that residents reported a decrease in loneliness, stress, and depressive symptomatology, along with increased average satisfaction with life. Sharon Howell, a senior resident stated, “I feel connected with my CATIE. It’s like having a friend in the house.” Many CATIE users expressed endearing feedback about how the platform supported their overall well-being and helped them stay connected to friends and family. Though we are past the height of the pandemic where isolation was intentionally implemented, CATIE is still a tool that can help supplement and enhance residents’ relationships within their own social circles.
Status Solutions’ Commitment to Advancing Social Connection
On the journey to societal change, it’s important to note that technology will never be the entire solution to this, or any, issue. However, some of the benefits of technology, as noted in the report, include providing opportunities to stay in touch with friends and family, offering new routes of social participation for those with disabilities, and creating opportunities to find community, particularly for those marginalized groups.
The Office of the Surgeon General identified six pillars to advance social connection. Of those six, Status Solutions is largely focused on two: Mobilizing the Health Sector and Reform Digital Environments. It’s no secret healthcare professionals are overworked, and when used correctly, Status Solutions’ technology can help relieve some of that burden to support not only residents/patients but medical professionals as well. The end goal is always to enhance the livelihood of the user and that’s exactly what CATIE does.
If you’re interested in learning more about Status Solutions’ work to create social connections, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 866-846-7272.
About the Author
Laura Hartman is a former middle school and high school English teacher. Currently, she is a Marketing Specialist for Status Solutions in Westerville, Ohio, where she calls upon her years of experience in the classroom to aid the company’s mission of protecting the vulnerable and preventing violence in schools.