‘Nowadays you don’t even see your neighbours’: loneliness in the everyday lives of older Australians

Authors


Dr Mandy Stanley
School of Health Sciences
University of South Australia
GPO Box 2471
Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia
E-mail: mandy.stanley@unisa.edu.au

Abstract

Loneliness is a pressing social issue for older people globally. Despite this, there is a paucity of studies on how older people themselves perceive loneliness and how service providers can support them. This study sought to address the gap using in-depth and semi-structured interviews with 60 older people and eight focus groups with aged care service providers in Australia in 2007. A purposive sampling strategy was employed to incorporate maximum participant variation. People 65 years and over were recruited from four large service providers in two Australian states. Our findings show that loneliness is influenced by private, relational and temporal dimensions and whether older people feel that they have, or are seen by others as having, a sense of connectedness with the wider community. Participants expressed the importance of maintaining social contact and having a sense of connection and belonging to the community. Our study highlights both the significance of gathering the views of older people to generate an understanding about loneliness and the need to recognise loneliness as a diverse and complex experience, bound to the context in which it is understood and perceived and not synonymous with social isolation. Such an understanding can be used to both evaluate and improve upon programmes that address loneliness and to help maintain an integration of older people in the community.

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