Launching this report during the Coronavirus pandemic, it is recognised the profound impact it has had on social behaviour. But also in ability to connect with people and the environment. This new report ‘The Psychology of Loneliness’, brings together the research with views and experiences of older people, policy makers, and organisations who work with older people.
Loneliness is an emotional response that many people are familiar with. Understanding how psychological approaches can help ease feelings of loneliness and shape our response can help us improve support for older people who are lonely. A lot is known about the factors that can lead to older people feeling isolated and excluded. And the life events that can contribute or trigger loneliness in later life. But less is known about the ‘internal’ factors that can shape someone’s experience of loneliness. Or cause loneliness to become more severe.
Loneliness is one of the most important factors in poor quality of life and cognitive decline in older age. This is predicted to be a growing problem. Loneliness is associated with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia. Poorly designed technology and infrastructure contribute to loneliness, but there are opportunities to design technologies that bring people together and increase people’s sense of connectedness.
Designing for people of all generations is just that: designing for people, recognising that everyone has their abilities and their needs. There is a quotation “Growing old isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.” For some people (e.g., in pain or managing dementia), this might not be true, but hopefully, appropriate technologies can help to make later stages of life a positive experience for many people.
Loneliness can become chronic if it is seen as something that we cannot change. Believing that loneliness is part of who we are, and that we are to blame for it in some way. Because our relationships are not what we would like them to be, can make loneliness harder to ‘shift’.
“Public campaigning can create awareness of how loneliness influences thoughts, feelings and behaviours. But also how this can affect our relationships over time.”
If loneliness is considered an expected part of becoming older, either by the person themselves or the society they live, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. And make loneliness in later life more likely.