As Americans age, we tend to become more socially isolated: We no longer work, perhaps our friends or spouses have passed away. And the social isolation that comes from a shrinking social circle doesn’t just make us feel sad. It’s a threat to our health: Loneliness is twice as harmful to our health as obesity and equally as dangerous as cigarette and alcohol abuse, according to a study by the Public Library of Science Medicine.

Americans’ health and wellbeing depends on finding new ways to connect socially. To this end, GE Healthcare’s Home Health Division and Intel’s Digital Health Group have created Care Innovations Connect, a computer program intended to allow seniors to socialize digitally while also tending to their health-care needs. Designed for tablet computers, Care Innovations Connect combines wellness data and a community calendar with a social network similar to Facebook.

The program is currently in use at Evangelical Homes of Michigan, a senior living community in southeast Michigan, and is a huge success there. Seniors make use of the program’s webcam capabilities to keep in touch. “It lets our clients feel engaged and cared for on a daily basis,” said Evangelical Homes president Denise Rabidoux.

In developing Care Innovations Connect, designers tested the program on senior users, who helped in its development. As a result, it is designed to be easy to use and accessible even to the technologically inexperienced.

For more on seniors and technology, see:

New technology will protect Midwest seniors

Seniors becoming web-savvy

Three tips to connect with seniors online