Social Isolation of Seniors

Santa Cruz County:

  • 36% of surveyed seniors report experiencing depression or isolation.
  • The issue of self-reported isolation and depression among survey respondents continues to rise and it now ranks for the first time among the top 10 issues seniors in Santa Cruz County face.
  • 60+ population in Santa Cruz County is now estimated to be 65,283.
  • Adults over 61 years of age are the 2nd fastest growing age group of those experiencing homelessness.
  • Over a decade there has been a 61% increase in our 60+ population, but federal, state and local funding for senior programs has fallen 18% in that time span from $4.4 million to $3.6 million.
  • 2010 Census population projections illustrate the urgency of preparing for rapid growth in the senior population. The most dramatic growth will occur in the next 15 years with the baby boomer generation.  
  • More than 1 in 3 seniors said depression or isolation is a challenge, up from 1 in 5 seniors in 2011. Some respondents admitted to having thoughts of suicide.
  • The suicide rate among elders is two to three times higher than in younger age groups. White males over age 85 are at the highest risk and complete suicide at almost six times the national average.
  • Homelessness among seniors continues to be an emerging issue. Calls from seniors who have lost their housing and have nowhere to go are on the rise. Some long-term homeless are now becoming seniors and are accessing services. A recent survey of senior participants at the Louden Nelson meal site in Santa Cruz revealed that 40% of the participants were homeless.
  • More than 1 in 3 survey respondents said buying food or other essentials was a challenge for them. Food insecure seniors are at increased risk for chronic health conditions, and  60% more likely to experience depression.
  • Facts about Senior Loneliness in Santa Cruz County from the Senior Council’s Solutions Summit Loneliness and Isolation Team


  • 51% of people over 75 live alone.
  • 26% of seniors face an increased risk of death to to feelings of loneliness.
  • More than 8 million adults age 50 and older – 1 in 5 people- are affected by isolation.
  • More than 6.7 million adults age 65 and older – about 17% –  live in social or geographical isolation, or both.
  • Loneliness and isolation lead to dramatic decreases in physical health, mental well-being and overall quality of life. Health risks of long-term isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
  • 46% of women age 75 and older live alone.
  • Lonely adults are more likely to be in the lowest income group.
    They are more likely to have an annual household income of less than $25,000 and assets less than $10,000. Those with lower income may suffer from a limited range of social activity options- possibly because they can’t afford activities or transportation, or because mobility limitations are not addressed adequately.
  • Isolation in adults in age 50 and older is rarely caused by a single event.
    It’s a result of multiple causes including: poor physical or mental health, decline in mobility, hearing loss, loss of a spouse or loved one, retirement, lack of accessible and affordable transportation, poor city planning, or belonging to an already marginalized population (people of color, LGBTQ +, immigrants, refugees and those living in rural areas). In many cases, these causes overlap creating a greater degree of isolation.

Needs Assessment Report Senior Council 2016
California Department of Aging
2016-20 Area Plan on Aging 2016
National Council on Aging
AARP Framework for Isolation in Adults Over 50 
NORC@ the University of Chicago


Lost Childhoods

Foster Youth & Transition Age Youth Fact Sheet by the Foster Youth Museum

  • There are more than 60,000 kids in foster care in California.
  • An estimated 29,500 youth were emancipated from foster care in FY 2008 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009).
  • Youth transitioning from out-of-home placements, such as foster care, experience high rates of involvement in the criminal justice system (Altschuler, Strangler, Berkley & Burton, 2009).
  • Between 11 and 37% of youth who age out of foster care have experienced homelessness (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2014).
  • Three in ten homeless adults have had experience in the foster care system (Gardner, 2008).
  • Four years after leaving foster care, 46% of young people lack a high-school diploma (National League of Cities, 2005).
  • The average amount of time each child spends in foster care is over two years.2
  • Around 43,000 children stayed in the foster care system for five years or more.
  • About 25,000 older youth “age out” of foster care each year without a permanent family to support them.
  • Over a third of foster youth earn neither a high school diploma nor a GED.10
  • Fewer than half of young adults were employed 12 to 18 months after aging out of the foster care system.11
  • One third of youth who age out of the foster care system evidence mental health problems, the most prevalent diagnoses being Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, alcohol or substance abuse, and major depression.12
  • Approximately one third of foster children will receive some form of public assistance shortly after aging out of the system.13
  • About one fourth of foster youth will be incarcerated within the first two years after they leave the system.14
  • Almost one quarter of those who have exited foster care have reported to be homeless at least once since leaving the system.15
  • Over two thirds of those who have been released from foster care have reported to have needed food stamps.16

 Sources & Resources:

Here are some additional ways to learn more about the changing landscape of foster care in California: