Old Batswana persons' experience of loneliness : applying the Mmogo–methodTM
Ageing in Africa and the world over is a phenomenon that affects individuals and societies. The expanding older population (people aged 60+) in South Africa led to this research, which represents an attempt to explore the experiences of loneliness of older persons in Africa and thereby gain some understanding of the subjective experiences of loneliness of a group of older African persons in their socio–cultural context.Defining loneliness from the existing literature was challenging since it became evident that loneliness in the literature is defined and researched largely in terms of individual meanings attached to the concept, and the applicability of such individual meanings to an African context remains unconfirmed. Experiences of loneliness are not well known among older Setwana–speaking persons, and few studies have focused on collectivistic experiences as such. Loneliness is considered a complex, contextual experience that goes beyond the individual and also includes culture as an inseparable aspect of people’s lives. Conceptualising loneliness as a socially constructed phenomenon places this study within the paradigm of phenomenology exploring people’s experiences. The philosophy of ubuntu relates to being in the world among others thus creating the concept of a social self. In essence, to be a self, one has to belong to a community, and one is always contextualised as an existence among others in interaction. A qualitative design was used together with a purposive convenience sampling method whereby the participants were selected on the basis of their availability during the research period. The participants’ ages ranged from 61 up to 73, and the sample included 16 female and two male participants. Two data sets were collected at different times from members of the Day Care Centre for the Aged in Ikageng, Potchefstroom, South Africa, as well as community residents who did not attend the centre. Various qualitative techniques were used to collect the data including the Mmogo–methodTM, in–depth individual interviews and focus groups. Multiple methods were employed for analysing the data including phenomenological analysis, key–words–in–context and analysis strategies as stipulated by the Mmogo–methodTM. The rigour of the data was enhanced through the use of diverse qualitative data–gathering methods as well as an array of qualitative analysis methods in a process known as crystallisation. Ethical approval was granted by the Ethics Committee of the North–West University, Potchefstroom Campus, under a larger project, “An exploration of enabling contexts (05K14)”. The researchers constructed two main themes from the findings: descriptions of loneliness and coping with loneliness. Loneliness related to the self and to others, and coping with loneliness involved actively engaging with the environment, being with others and using coping strategies. Some of the findings are linked to the existing literature, and some are unique relating to being with others and including social embeddedness as a multi–layered phenomenon connected to experiences of loneliness - it is here where the literature falls short in clarifying the findings within our context. Suggestions are made for future research, and some of the limitations of the study are pointed out. To conclude: Loneliness is a multi–dimensional phenomenon that older Batswana people experience on many levels of engagement with and disengagement from the self and others.
- Humanities