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Myth Vs Reality Aging and Loneliness

Myth: Older people are lonely and will gradually withdraw from society There is a perception that older people lack vitality and vigour, are sad, depressed, withdrawn from society and lonely.

The reality: It was once thought that older people naturally declined in health and wanted to disengage from social roles and interests. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a difference between living alone and being lonely

Depression and loneliness can affect people of all ages for various reasons. The milestone of retirement for older people may be felt as an initial depression because of factors such as role loss, financial concerns and poor health.Older people reject this myth as generalising and believe it depends on the individual. Some may be grouchy or lonely, but many older people resent the assumption that they are always at home with nothing to do. Many are busy with family and no other group of people in society has such organised outings and community activities.

An interesting study of depressive symptoms across the lifespan found that as people aged they were less susceptible to anxiety and depression. It is thought that older people may respond less to negative emotions, they may control their responses better, or they may develop resistance to adverse life events over time.

Research in the Netherlands contradicts the myths about loneliness, finding that those aged 15-24 years, and those over 80 years are most lonely, while people between these ages do not differ much in loneliness levels. People do not get lonelier as they get older. In the United Kingdom a study of people over 65 years found social activities were important for retaining an interest in life and keeping busy. Solitary activity could provide mental stimulation, and voluntary activity made people feel valued for giving something back to society. Another large study of community dwelling people aged over 65 years in Great Britain found a low seven per cent reported being lonely, a stable result that has continued throughout the post-war period.

“The majority of older people demonstrate high levels of contact with family, friends and neighbours and do not experience loneliness, so there is very little evidence to support the assertion that older people are lonelier now than in previous generations” Victor, C., A. Bowling, J. Bond and S, Scrambler, Loneliness, Social Isolation and Living Alone in Later Life, in In Plain English, E.S.R. Council, Editor. 2002: Swindon,United Kingdom.

Out of all people over 65, 26.2 per cent live alone. Of this number, more than twice the number of women (459,945) than men (191,005) over 65 lives alone. Men and women over 65 represent 37 per cent of lone person households – a trend that is predicted to rise as the population ages.

Older Australians, generally, spend 10 per cent of their time on social and community interaction and as they age, tend to spend more time in their homes and local neighbourhoods. Longitudinal research with people up to 80 years of age found those who were goal directed in midlife tended to continue this characteristic well into the later years, highlighting the important relationship between their self-concept and continuity of satisfying interests.

Source: https://www.qld.gov.au/seniors/documents/retirement/ageing-myth-reality.pdf


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