On August 14th-15th, Tivity Health, along with Health eVillages and many other sponsors,  convened the 2019 Connectivity Summit on Rural Aging in Nashville, TN.  This year, the theme was focused on “Demystifying Social Determinants of Health to Promote Healthier Aging in the 21st Century.”  The two-day event included discussions, panels, breakout groups and an action-oriented agenda focused on identifying social determinants of health in an effort to tackle social isolation across older Americans in rural areas.

Health eVillages, one of the main sponsors of the event, is also diligently working with partners to eradicate social isolation and loneliness in older Americans.  A large segment of seniors living in rural communities around the nation suffer from chronic health conditions and are impacted by social isolation and loneliness.  To combat these issues, Health eVillages has partnered with Saint Joseph’s College of Maine to establish an Institute for Integrative Aging and host Regional Connectivity Programs for Rural Seniors. Health eVillages also works with the National Council on Aging and provided 225 tablets to nine different rural communities across the United States, with a focus on SNAP (the federal food stamp program) enrollment of 3,500 seniors experiencing food insecurity.

During the Summit, we explored the impact of social determinants of health on older Americans’ social connectedness.  Factors such as social and community support, food security, transportation, available health resources and other aspects significantly influence the quality of life of older Americans, specifically in rural areas.  Our panelists, featuring a variety of executives, directors, presidents and more, spoke to specific topics and solutions regarding the social determinants of health and their impact.  Their detailed discussions influenced Summit attendees to evaluate existing models and consider new opportunities to recognize social isolation and improve the overall well-being of seniors in rural areas.  Speakers at the Summit included Katie Couric; U.S. Senator Bill Frist, M.D.; MIT AgeLab founder and director Joseph Coughlin, Ph.D.; Jefferson College of Population Health founding dean emeritus David B. Nash, M.D., M.B.A.; social isolation researcher Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D, and more.

Overall, there were over 200 registered attendees for the conference from all over the nation, which was a 60% increase in attendance over the 2018 Summit. All attendees had the opportunity to learn from our panelist discussions, breakout group sessions, and introduced for the first time, our Rural Aging Storybook.  In this book, we highlighted 19 success stories of organizations serving older Americans in rural areas from around the country, and it proved to be a great success.  The stories, as well as a detailed video highlighting four individual stories and organizations, resonated with all attendees. View the video below:

We also had representatives from each story receive an award, honoring their organization during the Summit.  Each honoree was extremely grateful to receive their award and represent their organization in such a positive light.  To view this Storybook, click on the following link here: http://www.ruralage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/TH9390BOOKLET0819_12ONLINE.pdf

The 2019 Connectivity Summit on Rural Aging was a great success, and we are already looking forward to making next year’s even better! Thanks to everyone who helped make it possible. Together, we can improve the overall well-being of older Americans in rural areas and demystify social determinants of health.

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