An exploration of the interpersonal experiences of loneliness by older people in a residential care facility
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An exploration of the interpersonal experiences of loneliness by older people in a residential care facility It is estimated that there were about 3, 8 million older people in South Africa in 2010 (Statistics South Africa, 2010). Many older people have to be cared for in residential care facilities due to their weakening health, the migration of children and grandchildren, or due to limited financial resources. This has led to the attempt in this research study to explore the interpersonal experiences of loneliness by older people living in a residential care facility. Loneliness is an unpleasant experience associated with inadequate interpersonal contact. It is widely accepted that loneliness is closely associated with ageing as a consequence of multiple losses – loss of abilities, loss of and changes in personal relationships, loss of relationships with familiar environments and changed contact with friends and relatives resulting in reduced relationships. Changes in the relationship with the environment are regarded as a particular loss by older people, especially if they have to rely on institutionalized care and loose contact with familiar social networks and the free association with other people. Lonely people are isolated people. For the purpose of this study, loneliness is regarded as a relational phenomenon, and the theory of complex responsive processes of relating will be used as the theoretical framework for this study. In an attempt to understand the interpersonal experiences associated with loneliness, a qualitative and exploratory research method was used. The research was conducted in a residential care facility in Johannesburg, South Africa. The group of older people, who was purposively selected for the study, consisted of 10 older persons: 7 female and 3 male and with ages ranging between 62 and 82 years of age. The data was collected by means of various qualitative techniques, including the Mmogo-methodTM and visual drawings. The collected data was analysed by using thematic analysis, visual analysis and key-words-in-context, and crystallization was used to increase the trustworthiness of the findings. Ethical approval for the research project was obtained from the North-West University. Two themes emerged from the findings, being: 1) Relationships are experienced in terms of the interactions in relationships as well as in terms of preferred interpersonal styles; and 2) The relationships experienced in the context of the residential care facility are described as being unsafe and lacking in care, while the environment is described as non-stimulating. Some of the findings are confirmed by existing literature. However, the unique contribution of the study is the finding that the environment in which the relationships are embedded is perceived to be dangerous, and that it is perceived to be a risk to become visible to each other in order to establish meaningful interpersonal relationships. Several suggestions regarding future interventions are made and some limitations of the study are mentioned. The contribution of the study is that loneliness are expressed and described in terms of interpersonal relationships embedded in the broader environment. Thus, the potential of older people to form meaningful interpersonal relationships are limited in the broader environment if the environment is experienced as unsafe and lacking in care.
- Humanities