Loneliness means that people do not encounter anyone or very rarely in their daily lives. This situation can be derived by multiple factors: The natural evolution of families (the family that dissolves with the financial independence of children); The attractiveness of some specific metropolitan areas to live in; Demographic ageing; When one of the partners of family member passes away; Health-related problems (loss of hearing, sight, mobility) and retirement ( no working diminishes social interactions)
Life expectancy has increased in developed countries, and consequently, the years that citizen over 65 years old must live in a situation of loneliness. The isolation of elderly people can have several consequences, particularly in terms of their health. Seniors can get sick more quickly and more frequently. Depression and loss of autonomy are the main risks faced by isolated seniors. The results of a study showed that in the elderly, the high level of stress caused by isolation and physical inactivity appears to be significantly associated with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, poor quality of sleep and malnutrition.
Research has found that social relationships are associated with an increase of health conditions and an improved self-esteem. Municipalities, NGOs and social services are creating and deploying programs to identify and minimize undesired loneliness, but the overall situation depicts multiple simple disconnected and unstructured interventions, which frequently rely on volunteering.
Elderly people and their context (relatives, GPs, Social workers and neighbours) need to know and to be aware about these existing solutions and programs; about the importance of going out of their house and to do some social collective activities. And also, about the risks of loneliness and depression. We propose a new educational program to create an enabling environment to minimize the negative effect of undesired loneliness in the elderly and to foster healthy lives. Healthy Loneliness envisions new face-to-face sessions which will deliver a set of tailored educational materials by introducing behavioural changes based on stronger social interactions.