“For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life”January 22, 20182 min read
It’s a feeling that many people are well-acquainted with, but at the same time, it’s a state of mind that rarely comes up in conversation – as if to admit it is to admit our own shortcomings.
But what is this thing that’s so pervasive yet that has gone unnoticed for so long? It’s simple really - loneliness.
In a 2013 report by Statistics Canada, as many as 1.4 million older Canadians reported feeling lonely, and this past week in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Theresa May appointed a ‘minister for loneliness’ to continue on the work spearheaded by MP Jo Cox.
Social interaction is important for all, but especially for older people. A study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, in 2012, found that participants who reported feeling lonely were more likely to develop difficulties with activities of daily living – to the point that loneliness became a significant “predictor of functional decline” and even death.
So what can be done to stop this “epidemic of loneliness”? For family members and those in the community, think about how you can help older people stay in touch with friends, or even meet new ones. If you’re willing to drive an older relative or neighbor to a doctor’s appointment, consider that driving them to visit with a friend might have a comparable impact on their health and wellbeing.
There’s a lot more that can be done – and that’s where our experts can help. The International Federation on Ageing's Expert Centre has several experts who can speak on the subject of loneliness. Just click one of their icons to arrange an interview.
Prof., Dr. Mike Martin Managing Director and Professor for Gerontopsychology and Gerontology
Dr. Mike Martin is professor for the Psychology of Aging and for Gerontology at University of Zurich.
Dr. Anthea Tinker Professor of Social Gerontology
Anthea Tinker's main areas of research interest are social policy and research ethics, specialising since 1974 in Gerontology.