ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Social distancing does not have to mean social disconnecting. 

Even before coronavirus concerns, one in four older adults were affected by social isolation

Now, more than ever, it's important to make sure we stay connected with those people in our lives.

10News spoke with the president of the AARP foundation about some of the health risks that social isolation can cause for older Americans.

"Older adults are at increased risk of both social isolation and loneliness. In fact, one in four older adults suffers from social isolation and 43 percent report being lonely. And what I would share with our viewers is that prolonged social isolation and or loneliness is the health equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day," said AARP Foundation President Lisa Marsh Ryerson.

10News asked Ryerson,  "What can older adults do if they're at home and they're already feeling isolated?"

 "What is important is to remember that social distancing is just that, it's about physical space, but we can and must maintain social connection. And so both for the older adult who may feel disconnected or be isolated and for the neighbors, now is the time pick up the telephone, drive into technology and all of the assistance it provides to facilitate human connection. Now's the time to learn how to use video chat, to use your social media networks as well," said Ryerson.

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