While moderate to severe loneliness is present across the adult life span, I’ve found it is particularly intense in certain age groups—one of which is the late 80s.

In our society, becoming older often means moving into senior living or retirement communities. These places have obvious benefits, closer proximity, for example, to essential services and one’s peer group. These are prime examples of congregate settings. And yet, loneliness is not uncommon in these communities or group living situations, despite shared common areas, planned social outings, and communal activities.

In fact, in one study conducted by colleagues and me, 85% of residents in an independent senior housing community reported moderate to severe levels of loneliness. Some of the reasons were obvious. Age-related losses, such as those of spouses, siblings, and friends, are a source of loneliness. Making new friends in a new community is not always easy and may not completely make up for whom we have lost. Loneliness may also be associated with a loss of purpose in life, of losing direction and control. 

But age can bring wisdom, which is the great antidote to loneliness.