A report from the Loneliness Observatory suggests that 41% of older people have experienced an increased sense of loneliness during the pandemic. Why do they feel this way?
If you ask older people around you if they feel lonely or even if their feeling of loneliness has increased during the pandemic, they will surely say no. And, as the report “The impact of COVID-19 on the feeling of unwanted loneliness of older people” recently presented by the Observatorio de la Soledad platform, older people often do not want to recognize their feeling of loneliness because that could imply that the people in your environment (children, partner, etc.) do not respond to your expectations.
Thus, the older people around us are likely to tell us that they do not feel alone simply out of shame or guilt. However, to what extent have older people actually experienced loneliness during the pandemic? 41% of the elderly who already felt lonely before the pandemic say their feeling of loneliness has increased, according to the report from the Loneliness Observatory.
WHY HAVE OUR ELDERS FELT LONELY DURING THE PANDEMIC?
Almost half of the elderly people surveyed by the Loneliness Observatory admit to feeling more alone since the pandemic began. Why?
- Because now they have less physical contact with other people
When asking people who say they feel lonelier, almost half (43%) are clear that this feeling is directly linked to the decrease, limitation or absence of contacts. 18% state that they miss the company and personal contact, emphasizing face-to-face and physical contact, and 13.5% refer to the impossibility of maintaining family relationships.
- Because the pandemic situation generates emptiness or sadness
21% relate this increase to feelings of anguish, emptiness, sadness, hopelessness or lack of motivation due to the situation. Loneliness among our elders, according to the new report, not only has to do with social relationships. Many of them link this feeling to an internal emptiness related to existential loneliness.
- For feeling that they are isolated at home
Before the pandemic, 60% of the people surveyed used to go out with friends for a walk. In addition, 41% carried out social activities such as going to the parish or the center for the elderly in the neighborhood. 72% used to go shopping at the market or neighborhood stores before the declaration of the state of alarm. Half of these people say they have changed their routines and two thirds declare they miss their day to day before the pandemic.
16% of the people surveyed consider that having to stop doing these activities and staying locked up at home is behind their greatest feeling of loneliness. The feeling may be greater depending on the housing conditions of these people.
- Because they feel more afraid
8% of people have associated increased feelings of loneliness with fear and general concern about the situation.
THE FEELING OF LONELINESS IN THE ELDERLY IS NOT NEW
If half of older people admit to feeling more alone now, perhaps we may be tempted to think that the data is not so bad: that means that the other half have not felt alone. But this is not the case, since the feeling of loneliness among older people was already widespread before the pandemic, so feeling the same is not a good figure either.
The research “Loneliness as a complex phenomenon: life cycle, poverty, subjectivity and culture”, also carried out by the Loneliness Observatory in 2018, already pointed out then that loneliness was situated as a social problem increasingly recognized and associated with people greater. “I haven’t been out of the house in weeks.” “I spend the days alone” or “I need a hug” are some of the phrases that the 2018 report already included.
In fact, almost a third of the people surveyed in the new post-pandemic report refer to loneliness as a general feeling of abandonment, or consider that this feeling was already present in their lives before the COVID-19 crisis. Most also consider that the support received during the pandemic has been the same as before.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP DISPEL THAT FEELING
The feeling of loneliness is subjective and multifactorial, so it is difficult to know how to help reduce it. However, the recently published report by the Loneliness Observatory has shown that 17% of people who have increased contact with friends and neighbors during confinement have observed a decrease in their feeling of loneliness.
Thus, providing emotional support by making regular visits so that they continue to feel in contact with people and being attentive to their needs is of great help to alleviate their feeling of loneliness.