Loneliness among older people is a growing issue globally, even if the numbers are difficult to estimate as loneliness most commonly is measured as social loneliness only. Social loneliness embraces social aspects needs for human relationships and is often measured in the form of the number of contacts someone has, how extensive the social network is, cohabitation or not, etc.
Loneliness is, however, a complex concept that also involves physical as existential dimensions. The physical dimension involves the need closeness and touch, while loneliness in its existential form runs much deeper than social and physical loneliness and is described as an unavoidable condition of humanity. This means that even if other people surround you, you can experience profound loneliness in its existential form.
Existential loneliness is usually described in association with death, dying, and cancer when questions about the meaning of life come to the fore. Studies involving health care staff (physicians, registered nurses, assistant nurses, social workers, physio- and occupational therapists) shows that the staff’s encounter with older people’s existential loneliness was experienced as both meaningful and challenging.
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