Older Adults and Social Isolation/Loneliness By Jonathan Comiskey

There is a common belief and stereotype that as people age they become lonely and socially isolated. I have seen this stereotype both be confirmed and not confirmed first hand in the way my grandmothers live their lives. One grandmother has grown very lonely and socially isolated in her old age. She is not involved in anything and does not often leave the house except for the occasional trip to the grocery store. My other grandmother lives quite the opposite lifestyle. She volunteers twenty hours a week, plays bridge at the country club a few days a week, and is very involved with her church and its workings. I chose to explore the stereotype of older people becoming lonely and socially isolated in order to try and learn why there is such a difference in how they live their lives and spend their time. I believe that loneliness will increase with age but can be combated if the older adults makes themselves involved social activities.

The study “Consequences of Loneliness on Physical Activity and Morality in Older Adults and the Power of Positive Emotions” by Bailis et al., was conducted in order to examine the relationships between physical activity, loneliness and morality and the possibility of positive emotions helping in morality and loneliness in older adults. The study focused on 228 women from Manitoba, Canada that were 65 years old and up. Bailis et al, used the “de Jong Giervield and Kamphuis 11-item loneliness scale”. The patients were scaled on physical activity from one being the least active and 7 being the most active. They were also evaluated on depression using the “Center for Epidemiology Studies Depression Scale”. The study showed that older adults loneliness was in fact related to physical activity but that loneliness and happiness or lack thereof were not related. Physical activity helps loneliness but may not help older adults have happiness.

The study “Age Differences in Loneliness from Late Adolescence to Oldest Old Age” by Hawkley and Luhmann was done in order to see if loneliness changed along with age. The study focused on 16 thousand German participants throughout ages 17 years old and up. The purpose of this study was to see how loneliness was affected throughout many different ages and factors. Hawkley et al., used the “three item version of the UCLA loneliness Scale” translated into German. The researchers also used a five-point scale on social isolation with zero being the least and five being the most (Hawkley et al.,) The study showed that the average person out of the sample felt lonelily rarely, however, loneliness levels increased as the age of the participant increased, specifically at ages 40 and 75 (Hawlkey et al.,) Along with age, gender, socioeconomic status, work status, living arraignments, relationship status, functional limitations, social engagement, number of friends, and frequency of social contact were also huge factors in the scores on the loneliness scale (Hawlkey et al.,) This study goes along with the previous study showing that loneliness and old age go hand in hand.

The Study “Loneliness, Social Isolation, and Behavioral and Biological Health Indicators in Older Adults” by Banks et al., looked into the relationship between being lonely and having health problems in older adults. The study was done with a panel of English people aged 50 and up who also participated in a Health Survey for England. They were also tested on physical activity, whether or not they are a smoker, blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammatory markers (Banks et al.,) The study did not find any relationship between the health tests and loneliness but it did find a relationship between age and loneliness as well as a relationship between physical activity and loneliness. The study found that loneliness may be decreased with physical activity but that it will increase with age (Banks et al.,). The finding that loneliness will increase with age goes along with the findings of the previous studies I have read as my thesis that loneliness, in general, increases with age.

The study “Social Isolation and Loneliness: Prospective Associations With Functional Status in Older Adults” by Demakakos et al., examines the correlation between loneliness and the amount of activity the older adult has. The sample was taken from two waves of an English longitudinal study of aging in order to get the most accurate sample possible. The study found that loneliness on older adults had a correlation to the speed that Gait progressed in the older adult, it also had an effect on the difficulty with the ALDs test for older adults. The study, not surprisingly, also found that loneliness had a strong correlation with aging and getting older as the rest of the studies did (Demakakos et al.,) The study also found that with decreased mobility came increased loneliness (Demakakos et al.,)

The four studies I read confirmed my theory that with increased age came increased social isolation and loneliness. I originally thought that this was easily combatted if the aging person kept a social schedule and stayed involved, however there is many more factors that go into combatting loneliness. For example, health, specifically health that limits mobility severely limits the social schedule that is possible for an aging person. The aging person cannot get around as well and may not have the recourses in order to find help in getting around. Relationship status was another big factor. Many of the older adult’s friends are dying, leaving them with less people to socialize with. Many older adults are also widowed, leaving them feeling extremely lonely. After reading these studies I believe that social isolation and loneliness in older adults, while seemingly unavoidable with many factors leading into it, can be avoided by keeping a social schedule and having plan to keep it once mobility is limited.

 

 

References

 

 

 

Luhmann, Maike, and Louise C. Hawkley. “Age Differences in Loneliness from Late Adolescence to Oldest Old Age.” Developmental Psychology 52.6 (2016): 943-59. PsycARTICLES. Web. 7 Feb. 2017.

Newall, Nancy E. G., Judith G. Chipperfield, Daniel S. Bailis, and Tara L. Stewart. “Consequences of Loneliness on Physical Activity and Mortality in Older Adults and the Power of Positive Emotions.” Health Psychology 32.8 (2013): 921-24. PsycARTICLES. Web. 7 Feb. 2017.

Newall, Nancy E. G., Judith G. Chipperfield, Daniel S. Bailis, and Tara L. Stewart. “Consequences of Loneliness on Physical Activity and Mortality in Older Adults and the Power of Positive Emotions.” Health Psychology 32.8 (2013): 921-24. PsycARTICLES. Web. 7 Feb. 2017.

Shankar, Aparna, Anne Mcmunn, James Banks, and Andrew Steptoe. “Loneliness, Social Isolation, and Behavioral and Biological Health Indicators in Older Adults.” Health Psychology 30.4 (2011): 377-85. PsycARTICLES. Web. 7 Feb. 2017.

 

 

 

 

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