Why are the elderly increasingly more inclined to live alone?

May 21, 2018

For decades, the elderly in Spain have shown a preference for living at home, either alone or with their partners, instead of sharing a home with relatives of other generations. A study by the University of Granada delves into the reasons for this trend.

Intergenerational cohabitation in Spanish families is an essential resource for many adult children due to the current emancipation patterns among the young. However, for decades, the tendency among older people in Spain has been to live with their partners or on their own after being widowed.

Juan López Doblas, researcher at the University of Granada (UGR), has published a study in Revista Española de Investigaciones Sociológicas (Spanish Journal of Sociological Research) on the reasons that lead these people to live alone, instead of sharing the household with relatives of other generations.

"In the Western world, it's been happening since the mid-twentieth century because that is when Social Security and pensions were established. In Spain, this arrived a bit late, as in other Mediterranean countries, because values of a more individualistic type have traditionally been more typical of Nordic countries", says the scientist.

The study was based on interviews lasting more than one hour with various groups of people over 63. The regions of Asturias and Andalusia were chosen, because they have different rates of population aging and, additionally, the senior citizens living there differ substantially in essential aspects, such as pension amounts or educational level.

"What we've observed in the study is that, at present, older people have a preference for privacy and freedom, and that comes before being kept company," López Doblas points out.

All the discussion groups consisted of a majority of widowed persons, which reflects the numerical predominance within the population group under study.

Emotional attachment to one's home and social isolation

One of the most important aspects for understanding the reasons for the decline of intergenerational coexistence in Spain lies in the household in question. According to the work, the elderly are aware that they cannot expect their families to come to live with them, so it is they who would have to move in with their families. And such a decision would most likely mean having to definitively quit the household they have been living in for decades, which is something that, as the study reveals, they refuse to do unless it is absolutely necessary.

According to the author, "they have a strong emotional attachment to their homes, even when living conditions aren't the best. They regard moving house as an unnecessary personal sacrifice that would also, besides, isolate them from their social environment, where they can socialise with family, neighbours and friends."

Living alone despite low pensions

The study also significantly reflects the manner in which the participants in the discussion groups explain what their lives would be like if they chose to live with their families. "They understand that if they shared the household with relatives, they'd be a burden for them, which is something they want to avoid at all costs. They also reject this so as not to meddle in their private lives, or disturb their privacy. And they fear that daily cohabitation would eventually and inevitably generate discomfort, arguments and conflicts," he explains.

Regarding pensions, although they are usually low, especially for many widowed women, this does not prevent them from managing to be self-sufficient. It is something that they achieve through a thorough control of spending, which often entails austerity in the consumption of even basic goods and services.

"Widowed people are forced, for the first time in their lives, to handle roles and experiences that are initially very harsh, in addition to loneliness. Adaptation is very difficult. But after a while, they also value freedom. It is a balance between the risks and the positive aspects," concludes López Doblas.

FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology

Related Elderly Articles from Brightsurf:

Amyloid deposits not associated with depression in the elderly
Researchers have suspected that Aβ deposits might also underlie the cognitive decline seen in older people with depression, however a new study from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has found that abnormal Aβ deposits were actually found in fewer older adults with major depression compared to non-depressed control subjects.

Children think robots can help the elderly -- but not their own grandparents
A study that asked children to assess three different robots showed that they responded most positively to simple robots shaped like flower pots, and were most sceptical of Pepper the robot, which looks more human.

Elderly people's response to COVID-19 not as expected
Survey results from 27 countries suggest that, despite their increased risk of severe illness due to COVID-19, elderly people are not more willing to isolate when asked to, and are not more compliant with several COVID-19 preventive measures.

T cell immunity in the elderly
A study by Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) expands the understanding of the molecular pathways that control T cell function and survival and how it relates to declining T cell immunity in the elderly.

Socioeconomic inequalities are decisive in the health of the elderly
Researchers at the UPV/EHU, Osakidetza and the Department of Health have reviewed scientific papers that analyse the relationship between socioeconomic inequalities and health among the elderly population in Spain.

Brain cancer survival has improved -- but not much for elderly
A new study from Helsinki University Hospital, University of Helsinki and the Finnish Cancer Registry shows that survival after glioblastoma has improved since the millennium.

New program keeps elderly out of emergency
A medical program developed by emergency and palliative care clinicians at a large Australian hospital is seeing elderly aged care residents successfully treated at home.

Why are the elderly increasingly more inclined to live alone?
For decades, the elderly in Spain have shown a preference for living at home, either alone or with their partners, instead of sharing a home with relatives of other generations.

Do the elderly want technology to help them take their medication?
Over 65s say they would find technology to help them take their medications helpful, but need the technology to be familiar, accessible and easy to use, according to research by Queen Mary University of London and University of Cambridge.

One in 4 elderly Australian women have dementia
At least a quarter of Australian women over 70 will develop dementia according to University of Queensland researchers.

Read More: Elderly News and Elderly Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.