“Vollpension really has become the centre of my life…”, Mr Karl, OvD (grandpa on duty) Vollpension at Schleifmühlgasse
Granny home alone? Not when we’re around!
In Austria, approx. 640,000 seniors (source: Statistics Austria) are alone. The majority of these live in an urban area. Single seniors are especially at risk of being affected by loneliness and isolation, and of falling out of social networks which could preventively counteract social loneliness and financial poverty.
Very often, the centre of social relationships for older people is their family. If there is no family left any more, or if the family lives too far away, the seniors increasingly have fewer social contacts and their level of integration declines, which brings about a rise in isolation. Despite the family contacts, social contacts are usually linked to gainful employment and colleagues, or to leisure activities and hobbies, which are again dependent on their income situation. And so older people may be lonely because of, for instance, their family situation (loss of caregivers or significant relationships), their health condition, their socio-economic status or their living situation (cf. Preitler). Single retired women very often are confronted with a special financial and/or social challenge. Additionally, there are very few points of interaction between young and old in urban areas. This promotes the growing generation gap and prejudices between generations. The potential for mutual support and exchange of knowledge and experience can hardly be utilised this way.
Loneliness has objectively measurable as well as subjectively felt components. If you have less contact with people, you’re not necessarily lonely. However, people feel lonely if their reality (size of their social network, quality of their relationships) differs from their own needs and wishes (cf. Tesch-Römer). Loneliness exists in all age groups, although it is based on different reasons and has different consequences for the respective group.
A representative German study shows that in their 30s and 60s, people experience increased phases of loneliness on average, and from age 75 onwards, loneliness increases steadily (cf. Luhmann & Hawkley).
So the causes of loneliness in old age vary.