How older adults can recover from loneliness

Transitioning into an independent living community in Denver can sometimes come with overwhelming emotions, including loneliness. But new research shows it can be alleviated. 

It’s widely believed that older age is darkened by persistent loneliness. But a considerable body of research confirms this isn’t the case.

In fact, loneliness is the exception rather than the rule in later life. And when it occurs, it can be alleviated: It’s a mutable psychological state.

Only 30 percent of older adults feel lonely fairly frequently, according to data from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project, the most definitive study of seniors’ social circumstances and their health in the U.S.

The remaining 70 percent have enough fulfilling interactions with other people to meet their fundamental social and emotional needs

“If anything, the intensity of loneliness decreases from young adulthood through middle age and doesn’t become intense again until the oldest old age,” said Louise Hawkley, an internationally recognized authority on the topic and senior research scientist at the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago.

Understanding the extent of loneliness is important, insofar as this condition has been linked to elevated stress, impaired immune system function, inflammation, high blood pressure, depression, cognitive dysfunction and an earlier-than-expected death in older adults.

A new study, co-authored by Hawkley, highlights another underappreciated feature of this affliction: Loneliness is often transient, not permanent.

READ MORE: How older adults can recover from loneliness http://to.pbs.org/2rJFfO4 

First Posted here: How older adults can recover from loneliness

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