The purpose of this paper is to report on research with older people that explored experiences of loneliness in order to consider community level approaches to prevent and reduce feelings of loneliness.
This research was co-produced with a community research group and involved a series of in-depth interviews (n=14) with older people. Interviews were thematically analysed.
Analysis revealed three key themes: connecting and disconnecting, points of vulnerability and older identity. Social connections were important to participants and many felt disconnected at times. Findings underline the importance of understanding the social perceptions of older people and how individuals themselves conceptualise older age.
Further research is needed to explore the value of social media in reducing feelings of loneliness generally. With regards to social implication the author suggests that older people need to be more visible and loneliness needs to be normalised and discussed without stigmatisation. In practical terms as people get older, and particularly as they retire, people need opportunities to re/engage with their geographically local community. The author suggests that preventing loneliness may mean finding supportive structures to enable this such as local community-based retirement classes. It is important to note that this research concentrated on one particular community in Bristol and needs to be replicated in order to further explore findings.
This research adopted a co-produced approach and involved community professionals, academics and local older people working together to explore the issue of loneliness. The author believes this has led to a greater breadth and depth of insight.
The author would like to thank all of the Alonely community researchers for their incredible work and valuable contribution to this research project. This co-produced research could not have taken place without their involvement.
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