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ACL Seeks Solutions to Match People Who Are Socially Isolated with Available Social Engagement Programs and Technology Solutions

July 30, 2020
Source: Administration for Community Living (ACL)

Mobilizing and Empowering the Nation and Technology to Address Loneliness & Social Isolation (MENTAL) Health Innovation Challenge

The Problem

Approximately 25 percent of older adults in the United States are socially isolated and 43 percent of people over age 60 report feeling lonely. Previous research has found many harmful health outcomes are associated with isolation and loneliness, including premature mortality, increased risk of hospitalizations, and higher risk for dementia, heart failure, and stroke. Analyses of Medicare spending found that $6.7 billion is spent on enrollees who are socially isolated.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated social isolation and loneliness due to the need to adhere to public health recommendations for social distancing to protect at-risk populations (older adults, people with disabilities, and people living in facilities like nursing homes and group homes, including veterans).

Although there are technologies and social engagement programs that can help address social isolation and loneliness, considerable gaps exist in terms of both awareness and accessibility of these technologies. There is a significant untapped opportunity to increase access and awareness of technologies and social engagement programs.

The Challenge

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) and the Office for the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with supporting partners [the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the Consumer Technology Association Foundation (CTA Foundation)], invites proposals from businesses, nonprofits, local communities, healthcare providers, technologists, academics, and others for innovative solutions to combat loneliness and social isolation for older adults, people with disabilities, veterans, and people living in facilities and group homes.

The goal of this Challenge is to increase consumer awareness and use of technology tools that help older adults and people with disabilities stay socially engaged with and connected to friends, families, communities, and activities of interest. We seek solutions that assess socially-isolated individuals and match them with appropriate technology tools and social engagement programs that best meet their needs. Successful solutions will build from existing assessments and technology tools, and use state of the art matching algorithms to increase awareness and use of technology and social engagement programming to create an accessible Social Engagement Clearinghouse with a user interface.

Through the MENTAL Health Challenge, we will recognize innovative ideas and solutions that seek to develop a software platform that increases awareness of, access to, and use of social engagement technologies and programs to address social isolation and loneliness. The grand-prize winning solution will become part of a public-private campaign to reach up to 10 million socially-isolated older adults, people with disabilities, and veterans.

The Challenge competition includes two phases with cash prizes awarded in each. A total prize purse of $750,000 is available for this prize Challenge. For this Challenge we will award up to $150,000 total prize funds for Phase 1. We expect to select up to three Finalists to progress on to Phase 2 and award $50,000 to each. If fewer than three Finalists are selected, the $150,000 will be split evenly among teams selected. The winner of the Phase 2 Prize Challenge will be awarded $450,000 and the runner up will receive $100,000. Finalists and the winner are eligible for a bonus prize if they submit a written assessment detailing their continued work to implement, scale, and sustain the solution. Total funds available for the bonus prize is $50,000. The bonus prize submissions will be due September 30, 2021, and details will be provided at a later date.


An informational webinar will be held on Thursday, July 30, 2020 at 3:00 pm ET.

July 30 webinar details

Join the webinar to learn more about participating in ACL’s MENTAL Health Innovation Challenge competition. This Challenge is designed to develop a software platform that increases awareness of, access to, and use of social engagement technologies and programming to help curtail the impact of loneliness and social isolation.

The MENTAL Health Innovation Challenge asks care partners, local communities, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions, healthcare providers, technologists, academics, and others in the global community for innovative solutions to combat loneliness and social isolation in vulnerable populations including veterans, older adults, persons with disabilities living alone, racial and ethnic minority populations, as well as those who live in care facilities and group homes who may be isolated from visitors and family members during a quarantine.

Register for this prize Challenge by September 8, 2020 at 11:59 pm ET – Register for the Challenge by emailing with the subject: “MENTAL Health Challenge Registration” and identifies one official representative from the anticipated submission and confirms that they consent to the Challenge Rules.

More information on the MENTAL Health Challenge is available at:

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