Loneliness in older people

Javier Yanguas Lezaun, ”la Caixa” Programme for Elderly People

Loneliness is a challenge of growing importance in 21st century Western societies. With a view to being able to act on and pre-empt the difficulties that go hand in hand with loneliness, “la Caixa” Foundation interviewed more than 14,000 older people attending its social and leisure centres and asked them about, among other matters, their feelings of loneliness. The responses showed that these feelings were very frequent among older people, and that in approximately one in six cases the feeling of loneliness was severe or very severe. Factors such as gender and educational level influenced feelings of loneliness. In order to offset these feelings, older people employed various strategies, including proactive initiatives and a positive outlook towards being alone. However, those who had most severe feelings of loneliness were precisely those who applied to a greatest extent strategies based on resignation and passive acceptance of their situation.
Key points
  • 1
       Loneliness was felt to some degree by 64% of the older people interviewed. In 14.8% of the sample this feeling of loneliness could be described as severe or very severe.
  • 2
       The sense of loneliness is slightly different in older men and women: the latter are more prone to emotions related to abandonment and emptiness than the former.
  • 3
       People with lower educational attainment have more feelings of loneliness.
  • 4
       People who experience greater loneliness tend to apply coping strategies that hinge more around resignation and passive acceptance of the situation.

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Javier Yanguas Lezaun , ”la Caixa” Programme for Elderly People

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