Illuminating the psychological experience of elderly loneliness from a societal perspective: A qualitative study of alienation between older people and society

Ling Yu Anna WONG, Anson K. C. CHAU, Yang FANG, Jean WOO

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Loneliness is a common experience among older people that is associated with health risks and negative well-being. As a psychological phenomenon, it has typically been defined in Western research literature as the discrepancy between desired and actual interpersonal relations. In our qualitative study in Hong Kong, we offer insight into ageing and loneliness in an urban environment of the non-Western world and propose to reconceptualise loneliness by exploring older people’s experience of alienation at the societal level as an important but often neglected dimension of their loneliness. Thirty-seven community-dwelling, Chinese adults aged 65 and above were interviewed in focus groups and their accounts analysed and interpreted using a phenomenological approach. Findings revealed that focus group participants perceived insufficient care for older people, a growing distance between themselves and society, and their disintegrating identity in society to be primary sources of societal alienation. In response, older people adopted a more passive lifestyle, attributed marginalisation and inequality to old age, and developed negative feelings including unease towards ageing, vulnerability and helplessness, and anger. The emergence of these key components and underlying themes of societal alienation illuminated neglected facets of the psychological phenomenon of loneliness and highlighted new implications for policy, practice, and research from a societal perspective to address older people’s loneliness in urban settings. Copyright © 2017 by the authors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number824
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume14
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017

Citation

Wong, A., Chau, A. K. C., Fang, Y., & Woo, J. (2017). Illuminating the psychological experience of elderly loneliness from a societal perspective: A qualitative study of alienation between older people and society. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(7), Article 824. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14070824

Keywords

  • Loneliness
  • Social exclusion
  • Social isolation
  • Urban living
  • Aging
  • Phenomenology

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