New research from the University of Kent has identified the need for loneliness ‘maps’ to help charities and public services support those experiencing, or at risk of, loneliness.

 

The research underpins a new report published on 8 April by the Campaign to End Loneliness. Titled Hidden Citizens: how can we identify the most lonely older adults?, the report suggests that local services and councils use existing data to predict where the most lonely and isolated residents live – allowing limited resources to be targeted at the people and places that need them most.

 

Dr Adrian Adams, of the University’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research and Dr Hannah Swift, of EURAGE - co-authors of the report with Anna Goodman, of the Campaign to End Loneliness - found that a person can experience loneliness because of a variety of reasons. These can range from the loss of a loved one to the need to become a carer - or from living in an urban area with high population turnover to finding yourself in an area with limited public transport.

 

The researchers found in particular that addressing loneliness requires better understanding of, and engagement with, local communities by agencies. Services also need to communicate, collaborate and cooperate more effectively with each other if the most lonely older people are to be identified, reached and supported.

 

The Campaign to End Loneliness suggests that loneliness and isolation are as harmful to our long-term health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and that people experiencing severe loneliness may visit their GP more often, and enter residential care earlier. The new Care Act , which came into force on 1 April, now places a responsibility on councils to address loneliness and isolation.

 

View the executive summary of 'Hidden Citizens: how can we identify the most lonely older adults?' or the full report.

 

Also view the Campaign to End Loneliness blog.

 

 

 

 

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The most comprehensive analysis to date of research on the effect of negative stereotypes on older people’s abilities has concluded that these stereotypes create a significant problem facing that demographic.

 

EURAGE’s Ruth Lamont, Dr Hannah Swift and Prof. Dominic Abrams carried out a review and meta-analysis of Aged-Based Stereotype Threat (ABST). ABST theory suggests that negative stereotypes of older adults as less competent than younger adults may act as a threat within performance settings. This threat can then lead to older adults underperforming and ironically confirming the stereotype.

 

Evidence from 37 studies, both published and unpublished, was statistically analysed, concluding that older adults’ memory and cognitive performance is negatively affected in situations that signal or remind them of negative age stereotypes– and that these effects affect both men and women.

 

The Economic and Social Research Council funded project, further found that older people’s cognitive performance suffers more when the threat is induced by stereotypes rather than by facts.

 

The review showed that even the hint that performance was being pre-judged because of age criteria was enough to affect older people’s performance. Ruth Lamont states that ‘this evidence shows that even subtle differences in the way people behave toward older adults (such as using patronising or slowed language, or noting that age may be relevant) can be enough to make them underperform when others are formally or informally testing their abilities.’

 

Researchers have previously concluded that stereotype threat affects the major social categories of gender and ethnicity, but this new meta-analysis, which looked at over a decade of research, highlights that we should be just as concerned about stereotypes of age.

 

The EURAGE researchers suggest that the vulnerability of some older adults to ABST when they perform memory, cognitive or physical tasks has important social, economic and clinical implications which will become more and more relevant given an increasingly ageing population and workforce.

 

The paper, titled A Review and Meta-Analysis of Age-Based Stereotype Threat: Negative Stereotypes, Not Facts, Do the Damage, is published in the American Psychological Association’s journal Psychology and Aging. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0038586 

 

Last weekend EURAGE presented at the SPSSI 10th biennial conference—the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues—highlighting EURAGE research that shows clear examples of ageism today, evidence that it affects older adults and the potential benefits of intergenerational contact. Dominic Abrams gave his presidential address at the conference and as president has supported the society in its aims to publish socially relevant research. For more insight into this area read Dominic’s recent article titled ‘Reality Check: Rigor, Relevance, and the Value of Social Psychological Research’.

 

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EURAGE members Melanie Vauclair and Sibila Marques are currently conducting research testing an intervention that aims to reduce ageism in children. The project is funded by the FP7 Science in Innovation Program ‘SIforAGE’ (Proposal full title: Social Innovation on active and healthy ageing for sustainable economic growth; Proposal acronym: INNOVAGE) and entails designing, implementing and evaluating an innovative anti-ageism program for young adolescents (11-14 years) in Portugal and four other countries in Europe. The aim of the study is to evaluate two different kinds of anti-ageism interventions (intergenerational contact and cognitive sensibilization about ageism), looking at their ability to change stereotypical perceptions about older people in different cultures. A manual is being developed that includes information on all exercises and that can be used by researchers and practitioners who wish to conduct anti-ageism interventions. The implementation of the intervention is conducted in collaboration with Santa Casa da Misericordia (http://www.scml.pt/). 

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