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Loneliness, older people and a proposed social work response


HAGAN Robert



Summary: This article is based upon a scoping review of literature about older people and loneliness. Findings: Increasingly in the UK, older people’s experience of loneliness is conceptualised as a public health concern. Social workers will wish to respond appropriately to older adults reporting loneliness but may react on the basis of keenly held assumptions about loneliness in later life, with scant regard to distinct subcategorisation of the construct. Exploring what an appropriate social work response may be, this article first sets out four misconceptions related to older people’s loneliness: that older people are especially lonely, loneliness correlates with living alone, strengthening family networks is best for alleviating loneliness, and loneliness interventions should tackle the issue directly. Applications: A proposed model is introduced regarding social work intervention, focusing upon direct assessment of needs, the maintenance of meaningful existing relationships and, if required, potential introduction of new social support avenues. Additionally, it is recognised that a separate response to long-term chronic loneliness may involve psychological work addressing cognition. (Edited publisher abstract)

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