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Tackling Loneliness - Aging Well With Marjorie
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Tackling Loneliness

Tackling Loneliness

As I mentioned last week, personality factors do not vary across all levels of loneliness (Cacioppo et al., 2006). A lonely person is just as likely as a nonlonely person to exhibit

– emotional stability

– surgency (level of positive affect)

– agreeableness

– conscientiousness

– shyness

– sociability.

Identifying loneliness

Holding handsIf personality factors don’t indicate loneliness, how do you identify someone who is lonely? Research in Leeds, England identified that lonely older people may exhibit

– “verbal outpouring, a keenness to keep talking” (I remember being like this when I was home with small children, talking the ear off of a visiting nurse)

– “prolonged holding of your hand or arm”

– “defeated demeanor, tightly crossed arms or legs”

– “withdrawal from social contact”

– “crying, depression” (I cried a lot when I took my first job, on the other side of the country from my family and friends).

Conditions contributing to loneliness

Loneliness does not have to be a condition of aging. Having experienced loneliness in the past, I am driven to learn what I can about avoiding it in the future, not only for myself but also for older people in my community.

We need to be extra alert to risk factors for loneliness, including but not limited to

– living alone

– poverty

– lack of accessible transportation

– poor health or physical disability

– bereavement or divorce

– illiteracy

– being a caregiver

– incontinence

– lack of access to meaningful activities and learning opportunities.

Helpful resources

Couple dancingInnovative ideas from European countries: i2i – Isolation to Inclusion 

From the city of Leeds, Older people and social isolation: a resource pack, 3rd edition

A marvelous resource for do-it-yourselfers of any age is Emily White’s book, Count Me In: How I stepped off the sidelines, created connection, and built a fuller, richer, more lived-in life. 2015. McClelland and Stewart, 289 pp.


Reference: Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., Ernst, J.M., Burleson, M., Bernston, G.G., Nouriani, B., Spiegel, D. Loneliness within a nomological net: An evolutionary perspective. 2006. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 1054-1085.

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