Are senior citizens really lonely? Maybe not, study says
Despite the stereotype that being old means being lonely, a new national study by Caring.com finds the opposite is true for many senior citizens today.
Andy Cohen, CEO of Caring.com, said the results were surprising because most adult children are worried about their parents, that they're all alone and not happy.
"Seventy-six percent never or rarely feel lonely and only 6 percent report that they often have feelings of loneliness, so it's almost exact the opposite of what the common perception is," said Cohen.
Cohen said the results give us a lot of hope — and that his results are consistent with other studies that have found, in general, people get happier as they age because they're more content with their situations and better able to manage their emotions.
"It does say that getting old isn't as bad as people might fear that it is, and even when people are alone, I think they get used to being alone and they're comfortable with it," Cohen said.
Fifty-eight percent of people surveyed said they had daily contact with their loved ones and 80 percent said they had content weekly, whether in person or over the phone, according to Cohen.
"One of the benefits of everybody having a cell phone now, is that it's very easy to call and text and send a quick email hello to loved ones, and so I think technology is helping here as well," Cohen said.
The data showed that certain influences had an impact on whether individuals felt lonely, such as income and education levels and political affiliations. Wealthier seniors and those with higher degrees tended to feel less lonely compared to those with less money and a lower level of education, according to Cohen.
"The other thing we saw is that people in suburban environments and rural reported being less lonely than urban environments, which is kind of counterintuitive because you think if you're in a city your surrounded by people (you'd have more company)," Cohen said.
He added Caring.com thinks that's because seniors living in suburban and rural environments are just more comfortable being alone than someone in a city might be.
"The other surprising thing we saw was is that Democrats were more lonely than Republicans. We added that question in just because it's an election year and we thought it would be fun, but I don't think there's anything necessarily about being a Democrat or a Republican," Cohen said. "It's correlation, not causation, because Republicans tend to be higher income and live in more suburban environments than Democrats, and that's why they had lower rates of loneliness."
Pets also were taken into consideration in determining loneliness. They're often recommended to ward off isolation, but Cohen said 60 percent of those surveyed didn't have pets.
"Pets (are) a great thing, but it's not a requirement to be happy," said Cohen.
Cohen said socialization is important for physical and emotional health, and said it's important for seniors to stay involved with their religious organizations, their communities, or even volunteer to have continued contact with other people.