The Correlation between the Residential Environment and Loneliness among Older Adults in Urban Setting in Australia

The Correlation between the Residential Environment and Loneliness among Older Adults in Urban Setting in Australia

The Correlation between the Residential Environment and Loneliness among Older Adults in Urban Setting in Australia

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Abstract

In the world today, loneliness have been termed as a major risk factor for older people’s poor mental and physical health leading to serious illnesses and high mortality rates among the adult. This study examines the correlation between residential environment and loneliness among older adults in a community, focusing on disparities of the resident in terms of financial capability, marital status and the size of the family. The study will examine the correlation between the two in 4000 residents across an urban community.

Introduction

Reports all over the world express concerns that the levels of loneliness in societies worldwide are on the rise as people have become more individualistic due to the increasing levels of insecurity in the modern culture. Loneliness is defined as the state of being in solitude without company (Steed, Boldy, Grenade & Iredell, 2007) It is the state when one is alone leading to sadness or feelings of being remorseful towards oneself. It is the lack of desire for affection, closeness or interaction with others or with one’s environment. The terms loneliness, feeling alone and lone may be used interchangeably (Suominen, Savikko, Kiviniemi, Doran & Leino-Kilpi, 2008). The feeling of disconnect from other people and the lack of a sense of belonging that accrues from loneliness may culminate to harmful mental and physical health impacts if they persist (Suominen, Savikko, Kiviniemi, Doran & Leino-Kilpi, 2008). Among the elderly, the levels of loneliness are usually elevated as they no longer work and probably spend a lot of their time at home. In the Australian communities, isolation is on the rise as a major concern as care models used means that people stay in their homes longer. This has led to an increase in the feelings of loneliness among the older adults of Australia (Steed, Boldy, Grenade & Iredell, 2007) This is a major concern as being alone in older adults could result to depressive symptoms and a decline of their cognitive function. It also serves as a risk factor for poor health, chronic diseases and mortality among the older adults throughout the world. The residential environment that any older adult may be a contributing factor to their being lonely as it determines their level of interaction with others (Prieto-Flores, Fernandez-Mayoralas, Forjaz, Rojo-Perez & Martinez-Martin, 2011).

Research questions/ Aims

The aim of this study is to conduct an integrative study on the impact that the residential environment of an adult has on the feelings of being alone. This study will answer the quations,does the marital status of an individual cause loneliness in their old age? What role does a family’s financial status play in loneliness and its alleviation measures? How do different housing factors affect loneliness? Does the quality of a neighborhood determine their interaction with others and/ or give them a sense of belonging?

Literature Review

There has been a significant increase in research on loneliness over time (Lauder, Sharkey & Mummery, 2004) There has been an increase in the number of articles in PubMed on loneliness from about 180 articles in the 1990’s to the current 5180 as of July 2017 (Steed, Boldy, Grenade & Iredell, 2007) This increase in the interest of research on loneliness can be attributed to the increase in the prevalence of loneliness among the adults throughout the world. Current concerns among society’s shows that older adults are becoming lonelier with time (Kearns, Whitley, Tannahill & Ellaway, 2015) Individualism is on the increase making people isolate themselves from others (Routasalo & Pitkala, 2003). Wealth only gives artificially maintained happiness that does not last long (Wen, Hawkley & Cacioppo, 2006). Researchers place much emphasis on loneliness as it can result in a chain of complications like unhealthy behaviors (Grenade & Boldy, 2008), substance abuse or sleep deprivation.

Loneliness is often associated with social isolation, but in certain instances, feelings of loneliness are experienced even when surrounded by people (Yen, Michael & Perdue, 2009) Loneliness may be a negative feeling or a positive one if an individual chooses to lead a solitary life (Grenade &Boldy, 2008). Several things determine loneliness such as the number of people around the individual, the culture in the society they are living and gender. In Australia. I6.2 % of those aged 65 and above do not leave their homes, according to the latest Productivity Commission Report on Government Services showing a lack of integration with their community (Steed, Boldy, Grenade & Iredell, 2007).

Prevalence of loneliness among the older is on the rise. In Australia, for instance, a survey conducted in the nation in a period of ten years showed that the number of people who became lonely had increased in the first ten years of the century (Kearns, Whitley, Tannahill & Ellaway, 2015). The survey also portrayed an increase in the episodes of loneliness. The variation in research findings on the prevalence of feelings of loneliness among older adults could be due to different study methods and the unwillingness of the aged to talk about their loneliness (Suominen, Savikko, Kiviniemi, Doran & Leino-Kilpi, 2008).

In the Australian community, there is available data on the amount of time that older people spend alone (Steed, Boldy, Grenade & Iredell, 2007) with the identification that social isolation is a concern. Despite the increase in the interest of researchers on loneliness among the elderly (Kearns, Whitley, Tannahill & Ellaway, 2015) there is little research into loneliness as determined by the residential area that the older adults live in. A literature review commissioned by beyond blue in Australia in 2014 indicated the existence of many community integration programs in addressing loneliness among the older adults in the country but there was lack of information on these programs and the key factors that aggravate feelings of loneliness among the elderly. This has created a niche in the health sector since loneliness among the elderly in Australia is of major public health interest (Steed, Boldy, Grenade & Iredell, 2007) and thus its association with residential environment need be determined and addressed accordingly. Researchers believe that there has been little attention concerning the effect of the quality of a neighborhood on feelings of loneliness (Prieto-Flores, Fernandez-Mayoralas, Forjaz, Rojo-Perez & Martinez-Martin, 2011) This therefore created the need for this research to determine the correlation between an adult’s residential environment and their feelings of loneliness.

Significance of the Research

This research will help in increasing the available information on the key contributors or causative agents of loneliness among older adults. It will help in establishing whether being alone among the older adults is associated with marital status, financial capabilities, housing factors and neighborhood where one resides. The findings of the research would be quite beneficial since they can then be utilized in further studies, drafting policies and designing of control strategies and management and alleviation of loneliness among the older adults who reside within this urban community thus helping to reduce the risk of mental and chronic illnesses.

Research Methodology

Study Location: The research study will cover an urban- based community setting.

Study design: non experimental study design relying on the interpretation of observations and interactions to come to a conclusion.

Sample Size and Participants: The sample size for this study will be 1000 older adults in the urban community who will be selected randomly. The inclusion criteria for this study is any older adult aged 65 years and above, residing within this community during the time frame set for the study. Older adults who will not be residing within this community at the time of the research exercise are excluded from this research.

Sampling method: This is a both a qualitative and quantitative research. The sampling method for this study will involve the use of postal questionnaires sent to the older adults within the community who meet the inclusion criteria with a self- addressed return envelope for mailing the responses. For all mails that will not be responded within one month, the questionnaire will be resent after the one month time frame. The questionnaire will be structured to allow the responders to provide information as follows:

· Marital status: married or not married

· If they experience feelings of loneliness: divided into all the time, often, sometimes, rarely or never

· Income level of; this will be an open- ended question the family

· Housing factors: whether they live in a rental or non- rental house and if it is a flat or not and the time lived in that house.

· Neighborhood information; this section will inquire their perception on the quality of their neighborhood on a scale of 1-5 where 1 is very good and 5 very poor, the regular use of their neighborhood and the availability of social amenities and if they felt secure in their neighborhood.

Data analysis: the data obtained from this research will be analyzed using statistical variables such as percentages and frequencies. In bivariate analysis, the chi-square test will be done to assess the association between categorical variables and loneliness and the t-test will be done to assess the association between numerical variables.

The results will presented in tables, charts and graphs

Ethical Considerations

This research will be conducted in accordance with recommendations of the National Advisory Board on research ethics. The participants of this research will not be coerced to do so, but will fill consent forms. The confidentiality of any information that the participants will give will be ensured through limiting the chain of custody of the information. The questions in this research will be formulated in such a way that does not offend, harm, or violate the rights of the responders.

Scope of the problem

This research will focus on the correlation between the stated factors found within the residing environment and loneliness. The research is limited to addressing the determinants or factors that attribute to loneliness within the selected community. It seeks to determine if one’s marital status affects loneliness, but does not go beyond questioning the duration of marriage. The study also seeks to determine the feelings of loneliness among the participants aged 65 and above without considering gender variations.

The main limitation of this study will be at the level of response. The challenges might arise from delay in mail response, death of some of the participants, change of postal address, and transfer of the older adults into foster care and unwillingness to respond.

References

Grenade, L., & Boldy, D. (2008). Social isolation and loneliness among older people: issues and future challenges in community and residential settings. Australian Health Review, 32(3), 468. http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/ah080468

Kearns, A., Whitley, E., Tannahill, C., & Ellaway, A. (2015). ‘LONESOME TOWN’? IS LONELINESS ASSOCIATED WITH THE RESIDENTIAL ENVIRONMENT, INCLUDING HOUSING AND NEIGHBORHOOD FACTORS?. Journal Of Community Psychology, 43(7), 849-867. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jcop.21711

Lauder, W., Sharkey, S., & Mummery, K. (2004). A community survey of loneliness. Journal Of Advanced Nursing, 46(1), 88-94. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2648.2003.02968.x

Prieto-Flores, M., Fernandez-Mayoralas, G., Forjaz, M., Rojo-Perez, F., & Martinez-Martin, P. (2011). Residential satisfaction, sense of belonging and loneliness among older adults living in the community and in care facilities. Health & Place, 17(6), 1183-1190. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2011.08.012

Routasalo, P., & Pitkala, K. (2003). Loneliness among older people. Reviews In Clinical Gerontology, 13(4), 303-311. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/s095925980400111x

Suominen, T., Savikko, N., Kiviniemi, K., Doran, D., & Leino-Kilpi, H. (2008). Work Empowerment as Experienced by Nurses in Elderly Care. Journal Of Professional Nursing, 24(1), 42-45. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.profnurs.2007.06.005

Steed, L., Boldy, D., Grenade, L., & Iredell, H. (2007). The demographics of loneliness among older people in Perth, Western Australia. Australasian Journal On Ageing, 26(2), 81-86. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-6612.2007.00221.x

Wen, M., Hawkley, L., & Cacioppo, J. (2006). Objective and perceived neighborhood environment, individual SES and psychosocial factors, and self-rated health: An analysis of older adults in Cook County, Illinois. Social Science & Medicine, 63(10), 2575-2590. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2006.06.025

Yen, I., Michael, Y., & Perdue, L. (2009). Neighborhood Environment in Studies of Health of Older Adults. American Journal Of Preventive Medicine, 37(5), 455-463. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2009.06.022

 
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