Battling social isolation and loneliness from home

The Bottom Line

  • Among Canadians 50 years of age and older, 41% experience social isolation and 57% experience varying degrees of loneliness.
  • In older adults, home-based strategies may improve social connectedness and reduce loneliness and depressive symptoms. Improvements and reductions range from large to very small. 
  • Older adults experiencing social isolation and loneliness should discuss the possibility of home-based options with their caregivers and/or healthcare team.     

Humans are social beings. From friends to family and everyone in between, navigating the world requires us to interact and build relationships with others. However, as we age, we face life events and challenges that increase our risk of being socially isolated and feeling lonely. Living with chronic diseases, various disabilities, and limitations to mobility are a few of the many factors that contribute to these issues (1;2).

In Canada, 41% of those aged 50 years old and over—4 in 10 people—experience social isolation, while 57% report either feeling somewhat lonely or very lonely (3). Individuals who are homebound, meaning they don’t have the ability to leave their home on their own, are especially vulnerable, as they often lack access to community-based resources that aim to tackle social isolation and loneliness (1;4; 5).

So, are home-based strategies an option for older adults? For answers, let’s delve into a recent systematic review that looked at their impact on social connectedness (through social support and engagement), loneliness, and even depressive symptoms (1).

What the research tells us

Four main home-based strategies, delivered face-to-face or virtually, were the focus of the review. These included psychological therapies (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy), befriending programs in which volunteers provided older adults with support and company (e.g., peer home visits), skill development activities (e.g., computer training), and support provision by health and social care professionals (e.g., meal deliveries). Home-based strategies were compared to usual/standard care or placebo strategies like generic phone calls.

Overall, the review found that home-based strategies may help to enhance social connectedness in older adults: social engagement increased by a large amount and social support by a moderate amount. Loneliness and depressive symptoms were also reduced by a small amount and very small amount, respectively. The current evidence base is of low-to-very low certainty, meaning future high-quality research is needed to solidify these results and provide a greater understanding of the long-term impacts, the relative effectiveness of individual home-based strategies, and which program characteristics (e.g., duration, delivery format, delivery personnel, etc.) are best (1).

In the meantime, if you’re feeling socially isolated and lonely, know that you don’t have to go it alone. Speak with your caregiver and/or healthcare team about whether home-based strategies are a possibility in your area, and which ones meet your specific needs.

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Author Details


  1. Chua CMS, Chua JYX, Shorey S. Effectiveness of home-based interventions in improving loneliness and social connectedness among older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Aging Ment Health28(1):1-10. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2023.2237919. 
  2. World Health Organization. Social isolation and loneliness among older people: Advocacy brief. [Internet] 2021. [cited June 2024]. Available from:
  3. Iciaszczyk N, Neuman K, Brierley A, et al. Perspectives on growing older in Canada: The 2023 NIA ageing in Canada survey. Toronto, ON: National Institute on Ageing (2023), Toronto Metropolitan University.
  4. Cohen-Mansfield J, Perach R. Interventions for alleviating loneliness among older persons: A critical review. Am J Health Promot. 2015; 29(3):e109-125. doi: 10.4278/ajhp.130418-LIT-182.
  5. Masi CM, Chen HY, Hawkley LC, et al. A meta-analysis of interventions to reduce loneliness. Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2011; 15(3):219-266. doi: 10.1177/1088868310377394.

DISCLAIMER: These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of new and old blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with changing public health recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website.