The role of context and the interpersonal experience of loneliness among older people in a residential care facility
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Older people are more prone to experience loneliness when living in residential care facilities. The purpose of this study was to explore older people’s experiences of loneliness in the context of institutionalized care. Avoluntary and convenience-based sample of 10 white South African older people (age range 62 to 82 years; three men and seven women) was drawn. Data on the subjective experience of loneliness were then gathered through the Mmogo-method®, whereby drawings were employed to explore matters and issues of importance in the lives of older people that could be used to deal with loneliness. Data were analyzed thematically and visually as well as through the use of keywords in context. The results showed that older people experienced loneliness in terms of having unavailable interactions due to loss, and an absence of meaningful interpersonal interactions. Meaningful interpersonal interactions were described as when the older people had regular contact and a variety of interactions. Ineffective interpersonal styles (e.g. taking a controlling position in relationships and being rigid) elicited rejection and isolation, and were associated with a lack of confirmatory interpersonal relationships. It is recommended that greater emphasis should be placed on creating awareness of unhealthy group dynamics as well as on psychosocial interventions to develop group support. Interpersonal styles, either effective or ineffective, take place in a social context, which, in this research, was observed to be unsafe, lacking in care, and a non-stimulating environment.
- Faculty of Health Sciences