Social Isolation and Loneliness in Old Age
- Clemens Tesch-RoemerClemens Tesch-RoemerGerman Centre of Gerontology and Department of Education and Psychology, Free University of Berlin
- and Oliver HuxholdOliver HuxholdGerman Centre of Gerontology
Social isolation refers to the objective lack of social integration. Loneliness, in contrast, refers to the perceived lack of social integration. Loneliness has serious consequences for the well-being of aging persons. Individuals who feel lonely tend to have poorer health, less autonomy, and lower subjective well-being than individuals who do not feel lonely. Lonely individuals even tend to become more socially isolated over time. While prevalence rates of social isolation increase with advancing age, only a minority of older people suffer from severe loneliness, however. Hence, loneliness is not necessarily a consequence of growing old, but rather, depends on specific risk factors (e.g., social needs, social expectations, resources, and competencies). Interventions therefore should be focused on these risk factors (unfulfilled social needs, unmet social perceptions, and lack of resources and competencies).