Health & Wellness

Pitching In to Fight Social Isolation

An Edmonton woman has created a fund to help seniors stave off loneliness


By Jennifer Hughes

Photo: iStock/Halfpoint.


As we’ve reported before, social isolation and loneliness have been shown to constitute major health risks, especially for seniors, and according to the Canadian foundation Vital Signs, about 30% of seniors feel isolated and alone. To help do something about the problem, an Edmonton consumer advocate has created a technology fund to help seniors connect socially and combat loneliness.

Working with the Edmonton Community Foundation and CapitalCare, a company that manages continuing care homes in Edmonton, Kelley Keehn created the Kathleen S. Keehn Tribute Fund to help seniors stay connected. Created in honour of Keehn’s mother, the fund is intended to support organizations that can create charitable activities and programs to enhance the quality of life of seniors living in the greater Edmonton area.

Before her uncle passed away, Keehn’s mother and he would visit each other as often as possible, and while they talked on the phone daily, Keehn told CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active that phone calls just aren’t the same. “Wouldn’t it have been nice if my uncle had a smartphone and could have video-chatted with my mom or something of that sort?” Keehn said. “I just think it would have brought so much more joy in those later years for him.”

Keehn said her mother’s online activity helped inspire her. “I saw what Facebook did for her and it really opened up this ability for her to connect with family all over the world.”

Technology is being used around the world to help deal with social isolation and loneliness among older people. We’ve seen the emergence of new and high-tech products such as ElliQ, a virtual assistant developed to help seniors with day-to-day tasks, and Paro, a robotic harp seal created in Japan to serve as a therapy animal in nursing homes.