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Combating Loneliness in Baby Boomers

Katherine Du

Katherine Du

My philanthropic purpose is to improve quality of life and combat the epidemic of loneliness, which increases the risk of mortality, for aging baby boomers.

A pressing public need exists for innovation and welfare enhancement for the elderly. The urgency of an aging population is clear; the United States Census Bureau’s 2017 National Population Projections reported that by 2030, all baby boomers will be older than age 65, creating a world where one in every five residents will be of retirement age. A public health study conducted at the University of Oxford found that globally, up to 50% of individuals aged over 60 risk social isolation, and one-third of the elderly experience some degree of loneliness. Social isolation and loneliness are risk factors for morbidity, mortality, decreased resistance to infection, cognitive decline, depression, and dementia.

The current ecosystem for baby boomers in the Bay Area is primarily centered on policy, healthcare and income for the elderly, with resources such as Medicare, Medi-Cal, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income. Similarly, old-age interest groups and foundations such as the Archstone Foundation, Grantmakers in Aging, AARP Foundation and California Wellness Foundation primarily target elderly health and financial support. Friend to Friend America, Little Brothers and AARP’s Connect2Affect focus on helping baby boomers socially engage with one another and younger generations. Opponents to resources for the elderly are the death care industry, private healthcare industry, and media consumed by lonely baby boomers.

A major point of opportunity in this ecosystem is that there is currently no scalable market solution that improves baby boomer life quality. My unique assets as a younger individual with tenacity, a range of private and public sector experiences (in financial services; state and national government; the hospital system; the magazine industry and a strategy consultancy), empathy, strong professional and university networks and access to national media outlets (having written for The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Huffington Post) poise me to build a platform of national scale, leveraging my networks for advice and involvement, in order to help improve life quality for baby boomers.

The population I want to serve is aligned with many older contacts in my personal and professional networks, and the wonderfully scalable nature of digitization would help me spread engagement and awareness. Merging the scope of the problem I am trying to solve – purposefully improving baby boomer life quality through intellectual as well as social and communal engagement – with my personal assets, my social change goal is to create a work and volunteering platform to connect baby boomers in the U.S. with flexible opportunities to intellectually exercise and form new communities, combating loneliness and improving life quality through meaningful engagement. This platform is feasible on both the supply and demand ends; baby boomers need a place to work out their minds and meet individuals to form new communities, while participating organizations and nonprofits need thought capital, expertise, and experience. With the help of my contacts at Stanford and professional networks across a variety of industries and my GSB Startup Garage team (which is interested in this space as well), I am confident I have a robust starting ground for recruiting baby boomers as well as organizations and nonprofits interested in hiring for team or individual projects.