Chair: Thomas Hansen
O4.1.1 What buffers older Romanians in Switzerland from loneliness? Past and present experiences
Ruxandra Oana Ciobanu1 , Tineke Fokkema2
1 University of Geneva, Switzerland, 2 Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demography Institute and Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands
The topic of loneliness among older migrants has recently gained scholarly interest. There is a particular focus on why older migrants are lonelier than their non-migrant peers from the destination. These studies neglect that many older migrants are not lonely; only a handful of studies moved away from risk factors to prevention and protective strategies against loneliness. This paper answers two research questions: What protects older Romanians from loneliness? And how does past experience of loneliness influence one’s perception and attitude towards present and/or future loneliness? This paper is innovative for studying former political refugees who have aged in place at the destination, an understudied population, and the social impact of communism.
The analysis draws on semi-structured interviews with 24 Romanian migrants aged 65+ who fled communism and aged in place in Switzerland. The fieldwork took place between April 2013 and January 2014.
Respondents know that old age can bring about partners’ death, immobility and health problems that impact loneliness feelings. Findings point to three preventive factors for loneliness: the difficult past and particularly the experience of communism that relativize hard moments, having a (support) network as a social convoy in late life, and being (religiously) active to distract one from loneliness.
Besides common protective factors, past experience and the life course impact how older migrants deal with loneliness presently, providing one with the tools to cope with future loneliness. These aspects need to be taken into account in future research and when developing loneliness interventions
O4.1.2 Manifestations of loneliness in older men living alone
Kristian Park Frausing1, Michael Smærup1, Kirsten Maibom1, Karen Pallesgaard Munk2
1 VIA University College, Denmark, 2 Aarhus University, Denmark
Background: Loneliness is receiving much attention in public discourse and through studies of its prevalence, distribution and relatedness to physical health. Consequently, much attention is given to interventions to remedy loneliness. Rarely is the concept of loneliness made the object of further scrutiny. Discussions tend to overlook questions such as what loneliness is, if it differs in type from adolescence to old age and whether it always demands intervention. The present paper aims at a discussion of the concept of loneliness with a focus on its manifestation among older single-dwelling males.
Methods: A qualitative interview study was conducted with 39 men living alone in which they were asked about living alone, social relations and loneliness. Interviews were analyzed using a coping analysis developed by Munk based on Lazarus’ coping theory making it possible to identify what problems the men encounter, their meaning and how they are coped with.
Results: Most of the older men living alone do not feel lonely. Secondly, where loneliness is felt it is typically of a particular kind related to the lack of someone with whom to talk over the day. Finally, loneliness is shown to be a somewhat ambivalent condition since the men’s attempts at alleviating are is also regarded as compromising their core values of independence and self-determination leading them to choose loneliness.
Conclusions: Loneliness is a multidimensional construct not lending itself to simple solutions. It is necessary to consider the meaning of loneliness in the individual’s life if intervention is to be successful.
O4.1.3 Risk factors for combinations of loneliness and social isolation in later life
Deborah Morgan, Vanessa Burholt
Swansea University, UK
Background: Loneliness is comprised of two components; emotional and social loneliness. Emotional loneliness refers to the absence of a significant other with whom a close emotional attachment exists such as spousal relationship or a close friendship. In contrast social loneliness refers to the absence of a wider social network. Existing research has indicated that emotional and social loneliness are two distinct concepts and as such they can be experienced separately so that some people may be lonely but not isolated or isolated but not lonely, equally some individuals may be both lonely and isolated).
Method: Using both loneliness and social isolation as dependent variables, multinomial logistic regression models were used to determine which psychosocial risk factors predicted inclusion in one of four categories of loneliness and social isolation.
Results: Multinomial logistic regression models showed that different psychosocial risk factors were predictive of inclusion in each of the four categories of loneliness and social isolation.
Conclusion: Understanding the role of different risk factors in predicting different patterns of loneliness and social isolation may be beneficial in identifying loneliness in the community.
O4.1.4 Loneliness experienced by low-income elderly women
Anne Rahikka, Saini Suutari
Miina Sillanpää Foundation, Finland
Background: The Adept Women -project (2015–2018) aims at improving the well-being and social participation of low-income older women trough a ten-week group intervention. Over 100 women aged 50–90 participated in the group intervention during the project. Most of the participants were retired and lived alone.
Methods: The research data (N=54) was collected by a questionnaire at the beginning of the group intervention. The aim of the study was to explore the subjective experiences of loneliness among older women. The participants were asked to describe their loneliness and how it affects their life. The data was analyzed by using qualitative theory-driven content analysis. Weiss’s conceptualization of social and emotional loneliness was used to examine the experiences.
Research Results: The women described loneliness as a lack of social contacts – there was no one to talk to or do things with. Loneliness was described as a depressive and agonizing feeling that caused a lack of initiative. The temporal aspect of loneliness was evident. Loneliness was experienced at a certain time of the day, on weekends and during the holidays.
Conclusions: The findings indicate that loneliness experienced by older women is social and manifests itself in everyday life. The women were longing for company rather than deep friendships. The negative feelings associated with loneliness, however, suggest that social and emotional loneliness are intertwined. Both types of loneliness can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.
O4.1.5 Can internet use reduce loneliness among older people? A cross-sectional and a longitudinal analysis
Anina Vercruyssen1, Werner Schirmer2
1 University of Antwerp, Belgium, 2 Free University of Brussels, Belgium
Loneliness among older people has been a central topic of social-gerontological research for a long time. The role of internet for loneliness among seniors, however, has caught attention only recently. A number of (small-scale) studies have indicated that being online can reduce the experience of loneliness among older people. Yet most of this data is cross-sectional; up to now longitudinal studies on the relationship between older people’ loneliness and their use of internet are scarce. Making use of the data from SHARE Wave 5 and Wave 6 from 18 European countries and more than 30000 subjects, our study sets out to investigate whether older people who use the internet are more or less lonely than non-users on a large scale. Furthermore, the longitudinal character of the SHARE data allows us to study potential changes over time in these relationships that cross-sectional studies cannot provide. We find that internet use indeed leads to less loneliness among the pensioners throughout Europe, and the effect is visible both in the cross-sectional and in the longitudinal models.
O4.1.6 Who is designated responsibility for reducing loneliness among older people?
Axel Ågren, Cedersund Elisabet
Linköping University, Sweden
Loneliness is today, in mass media, presented as a severe problem with negative consequences for the health and well-being older people. Implicitly, something has to be done. The issue of who is designated responsibility and how, is however seldom addressed in this public sphere. Studying the topic of responsibility gains insights in what type of phenomena loneliness among older people is considered to be.
In this study, we have analysed how responsibility is constructed and designated in articles from Swedish news-press. Particular focus has been on how responsibility is communicated and negotiated and who are positioned as responsible to reduce loneliness among older people.
Within Discourse of responsibility within politics and welfare-state, the responsibility is both self-taken and designated to other institutions which are held responsible for not doing enough to reduce loneliness. In Discourse of responsibility within societal and evolutionary diagnosis developments outside the individual’s control, is considered to contribute to loneliness. Simultaneously, “we” in “society” can reduce loneliness, thus, constructing individuals as responsible actors. Old people are, however, constructed as receivers of help from “society”. In Discourses of responsibility within senior-organizations, both senior-organizations and people who participates in activities are constructed as responsible actors.
The responsibility for reducing loneliness is, overall, designated to those working with older people in different ways. Thus, it is the “industry” surrounding older people, and not older people themselves, that are constructed as actors with the ability of choosing out of different activities in order to reduce loneliness.