Today's senior citizens less lonely than 20 years ago

The average senior citizen, 55 years old or older, currently in the Netherlands is less lonely than his or her peers were 20 years ago. They have better social contacts, more often have a partner and their networks are often larger and more diverse, according to a study by social and cultural planning office SCP, reports.

This SCP study is based on three sub studies involving more than 8 thousand senior citizens that ran from 1996 to 2016. While elderly people are now less lonely, the number of lonely senior citizens increased over the past two decades. The researchers attribute this to the Netherlands' aging population - there are more elderly people currently living in the country than there were 20 years ago. 

Loneliness among senior citizens is often caused by losses, like the loss of a partner, social relations and daily network contacts, according to SCP. The loss of control over their own lives also poses a risk, the researchers warn. Elderly people are more often dependent on professional care and support. 

In nursing homes, over 85-year-olds feel less lonely on average than the younger residents. People who still live independently over the age of 85, on the other hand, become increasingly lonely as they get older. 

Elderly people who receive aid under the Social Support Act often feel lonely. This happens especially if they live alone or have health problems, and less often if they have contact with family or neighbors. The presence of a caregiver also reduces the risk of loneliness. 

According to SCP, loneliness does not immediately mean that people are also unhappy. Only 2 to 4 percent of independently living elderly people under the Social Support Act and residents of care and nursing homes feel very lonely and very unhappy.