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Social Isolation in Later Life: Extending the Conversation

  • Rachel Weldrick (a1) (a2) and Amanda Grenier (a1) (a2)

Abstract

As Canada’s population continues to age, social isolation among older people is a growing concern and national-level priority. Although much is known about individual-level risks and negative health outcomes associated with social isolation in later life, the impact of life course trajectories and the more collective experiences are seldom considered. Current definitions and program responses tend to rely on individualized approaches to social isolation. Here, we argue that the conversation be extended to consider the social and cultural aspects of social isolation among older people. Specifically, we suggest that definitions and approaches consider three particular dimensions: temporal factors, spatial factors, and the relationship between social isolation and exclusion. Doing so, we argue, would result in a more inclusive approach to social isolation in late life, and the development of capacity to address social isolation among a wide range of older people, particularly the needs of vulnerable or marginalized groups.

Avec le vieillissement de la population canadienne, l’isolement social des personnes âgées constitue une préoccupation croissante et une priorité d’action au niveau national. Bien que les risques individuels de l’isolement social des personnes âgées et les conséquences négatives sur leur santé soient relativement bien connus, les impacts des trajectoires de vie et des expériences collectives sont rarement considérés. Les définitions actuelles et les réponses à cet isolement social se basent sur des programmes qui tendent à privilégier les approches individuelles. Ici nous proposons que la discussion soit élargie afin de considérer les aspects sociaux et culturels de l’isolement social des personnes âgées. En particulier, nous suggérons que les définitions et les approches prennent en compte trois dimensions : les facteurs temporels, les facteurs spatiaux et les liens entre l’isolement social et l’exclusion. Ainsi, nous pensons qu’il serait possible d’élaborer une approche d’intervention plus inclusive face à l’isolement social des personnes âgées, et de développer les capacités en ce sens chez un plus grand nombre d’aînés, en vue de pouvoir répondre, en particulier, aux besoins des personnes âgées les plus vulnérables ou marginalisées.

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Corresponding author

*Correspondence and requests for reprints should be sent to / La correspondance et les demandes de tirés-à-part doivent être adresées à : Rachel Weldrick, MA, PhD Candidate Department of Health, Aging & Society McMaster University Kenneth Taylor Hall, Room 226 1280 Main Street West Hamilton, ON L8S 4M4 <weldrirc@mcmaster.ca>

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