A team of researchers at Duke University explored how changes in social relationship expectations contribute to elderly people feeling lonely. The study is published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.
The researchers reviewed several life-span developmental theories and devised a theory called the Social Relationship Expectations Framework. They surveyed older adults’ loneliness in the context of factors like culture, functional limitations, social network changes, social relationship expectations, as well as the expression and fulfillment of such expectations.
The Findings: What We Want From Relationships Matters!
The theory claims that loneliness sets in as relationship expectations change with age and time. A majority of the aging population appears overlooked in their relationship expectations, expression, and fulfillment.
The elderly ‘expect’ to be respected and listened to; they also want to contribute to their community and pass along traditions or skills through meaningful activities. However, deprived of any channel of execution, they end up lonely and isolated.
The researchers recommended interventions that address older adults’ social relationship expectations to fight loneliness and loneliness-related chronic disorders (like depression, anxiety, dementia, cardiovascular diseases, etc.). Such interventions can successfully promote functional ability and healthy aging.
The authors elaborated: “Loneliness results from a discrepancy between expected and actual social relationships. [Moreover] ageism and negative aging stereotypes don’t help. The problem that we identified in the current research was that we haven’t really thought about: What do people expect from their relationships?”
To Know More You May Refer To
Akhter-Khan, S. C., Prina, M., Wong, G. H., Mayston, R., & Li, L. (2022). Understanding and Addressing Older Adults’ Loneliness: The Social Relationship Expectations Framework. Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 17456916221127218. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/17456916221127218