Allentown, PA – A new survey of Lehigh Valley seniors finds that one in three older adults feel that they lack companionship and one in four often feel isolated since the start of the pandemic. The report by United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley (UWGLV) reveals that low-income respondents who live alone and are unemployed or retired report greater feelings of loneliness when compared to those who have a higher socioeconomic status.
“Our research shows that older adults report good or excellent quality of life when they are connected to each other, feel respected and have access to resources they need,” said Carmen Bell, Director of Healthy Aging, UWGLV.
“As we build an Age-Friendly Lehigh Valley, our seniors need increased connections to basic needs and community hubs that are in accessible areas,” Bell added.
The Lehigh Valley Seniors: Healthy Aging 2021 Update was prepared for UWGLV by the Lehigh Valley Research Consortium and the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion. The telephone-based survey questioned more than 1,000 seniors age 65 and older living in Lehigh and Northampton counties.
“We surveyed over 1,000 seniors living in the Lehigh Valley to learn more about the relational nature of aging in place. Although the vast majority of seniors report very positive experiences aging in our community, many continue to struggle with barriers to healthy aging, including income, loneliness and experiences with ageism,” reported Lanethea Mathews-Schultz, Ph.D., Muhlenberg College Professor and Chair of Political Science.
According to the report, approximately 116,500 people ages 65 and older reside in Lehigh and Northampton counties, a 22% increase since 2010.The Urban Institute estimates that the number of U.S. adults ages 65 and older will more than double in the next 40 years, reaching approximately 80 million by 2040.
The vast majority of seniors in the Lehigh Valley convey positive feelings toward their communities; however, 23% of older adults have reported decreased companionship since before the pandemic and 18% report increased isolation. “Our goal is to increase awareness of social isolation and coordinate efforts to address social isolation to promote a better quality of life for those individuals,” stated Bell.
Visit www.agefriendlylv.org to view the Lehigh Valley Seniors: Healthy Aging 2021 Update.