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Loneliness and It’s Toll On Positive Aging

Loneliness and It’s Toll On Positive Aging

By Susan Williams

I don’t know of anyone who wants to be lonely. But sadly, many people are.

Research from the AARP discovered that approximately 1 in 3 adults aged 45 and over are lonely.  And in the UK, the issue of loneliness has become so concerning that they even introduced a Minister of Loneliness to deal with the issue.

To help us better understand loneliness and it’s implications especially when aging, I met with Dr. Deborah Morgan from Swansea University.

Dr. Morgan has extensively researched loneliness and how it can impact someone’s life as they age and also gave a TED Talk on the topic A Life Less Lonely. She joins us for one of our Learning Bite sessions and shares some of her research with us in the following video.

Here are some of the highlights of our discussion;

How Is Loneliness Defined?

Loneliness is a subjective experience that is specific to an individual. It’s a lack of quantity or quality of social relationships. Loneliness is when a person has less social relationships then they would like or they don’t feel socially connected with the people around them.

Is Loneliness and Isolation the Same Thing?

Actually they are different. Loneliness is a subjective experience whereas social isolation is more of an objective measure and it’s related to the absence of contact with other people. So you could actually be lonely and not isolated, isolated and not lonely or experience them both at the same time.

Loneliness is Personal

Everyone’s experience with loneliness is different. Some people found themselves facing loneliness as a result of a lost relationship (example later age divorce) while others just lost contact with friends of family. Some people thought that loneliness was just something to be expected as you age.

The good news is that loneliness can be overcome.

Loneliness is not necessarily a permanent situation. For example, some people in Dr. Morgan’s research group cultivated connections with people who were in a similar situation or joined clubs or associations to help them become more socially connected.

Can Technology Help Combat Loneliness?

What Dr. Morgan discovered was that technology can help maintain contact with people (for example rather then a phone call, a Skype call may be made) however it doesn’t necessarily increase the amount of social contact or number of relationships.

What Can Someone Do Today to Fend Off Loneliness?

We all need to be aware of the key trigger points related to loneliness. For example, inability to drive any longer, poor health or even moving to a new area can all be contributors. We need to proactively consider our social futures. We often don’t think about our social networks until they are no longer there. If you are interested, here are some additional resources to learn more about what you can do.

We Can Help Each Other

The next time you are in a store, or waiting in line somewhere be aware of who is around you. You never know that the person who speaks to you may be lonely and may appreciate just even the small amount of social interaction that you have with them.

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Susan Williams is the Founder of Booming Encore. Being a Boomer herself, Susan loves to discover and share ways to live life to the fullest. She shares her experiences, observations and opinions on living life after 50 and tries to embrace Booming Encore's philosophy of making sure every day matters.