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Three main themes emerged from the study: Age-associated losses and inadequate social skills were considered to be primary risk factors for loneliness. "Some residents talked about the loss of spouses, siblings and friends as the cause of their loneliness. Others mentioned how making new friends in a senior community cannot replace deceased friends they grew up with," said first author Alejandra Paredes, PhD, a research fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Diego School of Medicine. The feeling of loneliness was frequently associated with a lack of purpose in life. "We heard powerful comments like, 'It's kind of gray and incarcerating,'" said Jeste. "Others expressed a sense of 'not being attached, not having very much meaning and not feeling very hopeful' or 'being lost and not having control.'" The research team also found that wisdom, including compassion, seemed to be a factor that prevented loneliness. "One participant spoke of a technique she had used for years, saying 'if you're feeling lonely, then go out and do something for somebody else.' That's proactive," said Jeste. Other protective factors were acceptance of aging and comfort with being alone. "One resident told us, 'I've accepted the aging process. I'm not afraid of it. I used to climb mountains. I want to keep moving, even if I have to crawl. I have to be realistic about getting older, but I consider and accept life as a transition,'" Jeste noted. "Another resident responded, 'I may feel alone, but that doesn't mean I'm lonely. I'm proud I can live by myself.'"
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, by 2029, more than 20 percent of the United States population will be over the age of 65. "It is paramount that we address the well-being of our seniors -- they are friends, parents and grandparents of the younger generations," said Jeste. "Our study is relevant to better understand loneliness within senior housing and other settings to so we can develop effective interventions." Source:
University of California - San Diego Journal reference:
Paredes, A. M. et al . (2020) Qualitative study of loneliness in a senior housing community: the importance of wisdom and other coping strategies Aging and Mental Health. doi.
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