Y-USA Social Connectedness and Healthy Aging Evaluation
Social connectedness can improve health and wellbeing among older adults.
Few studies have explored to what extent community organizations can play an important role in increasing social connectedness among older adults. One community-based membership organization that is uniquely positioned to support the social needs of older adults in the United States is the YMCA (“Y”). The Y is a leading non-profit organization with 2,700 Ys across the U.S. serving more than 10,000 neighborhoods.
The YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) implemented a program to advance the Y's healthy aging programs.
The program aimed to improve quality of life and increase social connectedness among older adults. Y-USA addressed loneliness and promoted social connectedness by supporting 36 local Ys to recruit adults age 55+ to participate in traditional social and wellness programs and chronic disease prevention programs. The aims of NORC’s evaluation were three-fold:
- Assess whether participation in Y programs improved quality of life among older adults through increased well-being and social connectedness, and decreased loneliness;
- Explore factors that influenced older adults’ outcomes in the program; and
- Identify successful Y models or approaches for improving quality of life and social connectedness among older adults.
NORC conducted a mail survey of 1,028 Y members recruited by local Ys, using a retrospective post-then-pre survey to study the outcomes of Y programming on older adults' quality of life and social connectedness. We also conducted site visits with two Ys, which included focus groups with older adults served by the Y and interviews with Y staff and partners. We used t-tests, ANCOVA, multiple linear regression, and qualitative content analysis to explore the contribution of Y programming to older adults' quality of life and social connectedness.
This study offers preliminary evidence that Ys can play an important role in meeting the social needs of older adults.
Ys offered group fitness and aquatics classes, sports programs, social activities, lunch and learns focused on healthy living topics, and events and trips, among other activities. We found significant improvements in overall well-being and social connectedness from pre- to post- interaction with the Y, among other findings. Y interventions that promote social activities for older adults may help to enhance well-being among older adults.
Associate DirectorProject Director