|Life is what you make of it mostly|
We shouldn’t fear a lonely old age because loneliness is far from inevitable, according to a study funded by the ESRC. Using data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), Professor Christina Victor’s research suggests only 10% of people over 50 complain of significant loneliness – a figure which has remained unchanged since the 1940s.
“One of the major stereotypes prevalent in our society is that old age is almost guaranteed to be a time of loneliness,” suggests Professor Victor, from Brunel University London. “Interestingly our findings indicate this ‘lonely’ group is made up of three distinct sub-groups.
“For half of them loneliness appears to have been established for at least ten years and is, we suspect, possibly a lifelong experience. Then we have ‘lonely’ people who are moving into loneliness (possibly due to a bereavement) and those moving out of loneliness (perhaps because they have adjusted to changed circumstances). Crucially, lonely people are not a heterogeneous group.”
… “One of our most interesting findings is that expectations of loneliness are strongly associated with loneliness outcomes,” she explains. “In other words, loneliness is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy: those who believed that loneliness was a normal part of ageing, were more likely experience loneliness as they grew older.” And while pets do not necessarily protect against loneliness, strong social networks certainly do.