As social networks shrink, older adults spend more time in solitude (the absence of social interaction), putting them at greater risk of loneliness. Older immigrants may be particularly at risk in a new culture (e.g. Chinese immigrants to Canada) with few local social ties. Yet, individuals may sometimes seek out solitude, a phenomenon that is poorly understood but that might protect against loneliness. This study sought to disentangle the roles of culture, immigration, acculturation, and solitude desire in associations between solitude and loneliness. Community-dwelling adults aged 50-85 in Vancouver (N = 59 of Asian heritage, N = 37 of Caucasian heritage) and in Hong Kong (N = 56, Asian heritage) each completed approximately 30 ecological momentary assessments over 10 days assessing current affective states, social situation, and solitude desire. Older adults in Vancouver were more likely to be in solitude, and yet felt less lonely, than those in Hong Kong, regardless of their ethnicity and immigration status. Hence, local culture may be a key factor shaping solitude experiences. Multilevel models further revealed that moments in solitude (compared to social interaction) felt more lonely, but only for individuals who were less acculturated to the local culture or who did not desire solitude. Associations were independent of cultural heritage, age, gender, education, retirement, and relationship status. Findings suggest that solitude need not feel lonely if individuals desire it and feel connected with the local culture. We discuss implications for reducing loneliness among older adults who have immigrated and those aging in place. Copyright © 2018 US-HK AXT.
|Publication status||Published - May 2018|