Solitude can be enjoyed or suffered, and we can even feel alone when surrounded by others. In Barcelona, where there are over 100,000 individuals over the age of 60 living alone, there are also a number of support programs for seniors. We’ll interview some of the protagonists and beneficiaries of these services, who’ll show us how something as simple as going out in good company can help us regain our love of life.
From an evolutionary perspective, loneliness has been defined as a desire for social interaction. It’s a psychological and social condition that includes emotional aspects, cognitive aspects and a discomfort that we should see as the result of insufficient social support. Loneliness reflects our vulnerability and our need for others.
Living alone does not necessarily mean suffering from that, but over time social networks are weakened or lost, and people feel increasingly excluded and socially isolated. The situation is worse in the case of women, most of them on low pensions. Barcelona addresses the problem of loneliness among elderly people through public and charitable initiatives.
The problem of loneliness has become so acute in the United Kingdom that at the start of the year the Government decided to focus one specific department on combating this scourge of the 21st century, and set up a kind of Ministry for Loneliness.
People’s life expectancy varies according to their gender, the neighbourhood where they live, where they work or their level of education. One of the factors that can influence their state of health is loneliness.
Over the course of our lives we experience moments of liberating solitude, and others when, lost in a sea of unwanted isolation, all we can do is to try to keep afloat. In an ageing society like ours, people often have loneliness as their companion during their final years.
Digital communication has greatly increased our capacity to interact with others. However, one element radically affects the relationships we can establish virtually: physical absence. They lack the empathy and all the social and personal knowledge transmitted by our bodies.