Qualitative study of loneliness in a senior housing community: the importance of wisdom and other coping strategies

Abstract

Objective:
Older adults are at a high risk for loneliness, which impacts their
health, well-being, and longevity. While related to social isolation,
loneliness is a distinct, internally experienced, distressing feeling.
The present qualitative study sought to identify characteristics of
loneliness in older adults living independently within a senior housing
community, which is typically designed to reduce social isolation.

Method:
Semi-structured qualitative interviews regarding the experience of
loneliness, risk factors, and ways to combat it were conducted with 30
older adults, ages 65–92 years. The interviews were audiotaped,
transcribed, and coded using a grounded theory analytic approach based
on coding, consensus, co-occurrence, and comparison.

Results:
Three main themes with multiple subthemes are described: (A) Risk and
Protective factors for loneliness: age-associated losses, lack of social
skills or abilities, and protective personality traits; (B) Experience
of loneliness: Sadness and lack of meaning as well as Lack of
motivation; and © Coping strategies to prevent or overcome loneliness:
acceptance of aging, compassion, seeking companionship, and environment
enables socialization.

Discussion: Despite living within a
communal setting designed to reduce social isolation, many older adults
described feeling lonely in stark negative terms, attributing it to
aging-associated losses or lack of social skills and abilities. However,
interviewees also reported positive personal qualities and actions to
prevent or cope with loneliness, several of which mirrored specific
components of wisdom. The results support the reported inverse
relationship between loneliness and wisdom and suggest a potential role
for wisdom-enhancing interventions to reduce and prevent loneliness in
older populations.

Qualitative study of loneliness in a senior housing community: the importance of wisdom and other coping strategies

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