Seniors and loneliness series: The causes of loneliness

Bojana NedicHealth & WellnessDecember 22, 2017
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In this 4-part series on seniors and loneliness, we’ll help you figure out if your aging loved one is lonely, causes of loneliness in seniors, the negative effects of loneliness and the role retirement communities play in reducing loneliness.


Alone vs lonely

Spending time alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely—solitude can be a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. But many seniors spend more time alone than they’d like and end up feeling lonely.


But it’s not just time alone that causes loneliness in seniors (and all of us). 


Loss leads to loneliness in seniors

According to the IBM Executive Report, Loneliness and the Aging Population, “Loneliness in older adults is almost always triggered by some form of loss, whether at a personal and/or societal level.”


We recommend taking an inventory of recent losses if you’re concerned about your aging parent or loved one (or yourself) being lonely.  Use the lists below to get started.


Losses that can lead to loneliness in seniors:

  • Physical loss—Decreased mobility, vision and hearing can lead to fewer social interactions and increased isolation.
  • Social loss—Seniors find their social circle shrinking over time because of death and friends moving out of the community. AARP, a non-profit that helps Americans over 50 choose how they live as they age, found that, “55% of lonely people have fewer friends compared to 5 years back.”
  • Loss of status—Retiring is supposed to be fun but some seniors mourn the loss of status (and meaning) they received through their job title and duties.
  • Loss of movement—Not being able to travel alone leads to staying home more. For example, when someone loses their driver’s licence, it can have devastating social effects.


Other causes of loneliness in seniors:

  • Having limited social support
  • Living alone
  • Lack of meaningful communication with friends and family
  • Self-sabotaging behaviour (pushing people away and not making the effort to connect with people)


Loneliness doesn’t just feel bad, it’s bad for one’s health and vitality. Join us for part 3 of this series where we talk about the negative effects of loneliness in seniors.

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