Today, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health launched the MENTAL Health Challenge to combat the social isolation and loneliness that older adults, people with disabilities, and veterans often experience. A total of $750,000 in prizes will be awarded for development of an easy-to-use online system that offers recommendations for programs, activities and resources that can help users connect to others and engage in the community, based on their individual needs, interests, and abilities. The winning system will be announced and demonstrated in January 2021 at CES. And ultimately will become the centerpiece of a national public awareness campaign.
Social disconnection has enormous health consequences. Social isolation has been found to be as harmful to a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and people who are socially isolated or lonely face higher risk of hospitalization; depression, anxiety and suicide; heart failure and stroke; dementia; and even premature death. Not surprisingly, a recent analysis found that Medicare spends an additional $6.7 billion every year on enrollees who are socially isolated.