Social Isolation and Meaning in Late Adulthood

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Dhoot, Salena
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Late adulthood can be a wonderful and rewarding time for many individuals. Equally, many older adults experience social isolation, sometimes made additionally arduous due to physical and/or mental health concerns. Those who express a strong sense of meaning report fewer mental and physical illnesses. A sense of meaning or purpose is shown to be beneficial in coping with existential concerns, as well as physical or cognitive changes. Meaning is derived from several possible avenues, but is ultimately an individual experience; for example, some obtain meaning through making art while for others charitable work provides meaning. The mediating relationship of meaning on social isolation in late adulthood has not been extensively explored. Social isolation is defined both in terms of objective isolation and subjective isolation. A key challenge when exploring social isolation is the lack of agreement among scholars in defining the terms. While ample literature discusses meaning in late adulthood, these two constructs are rarely explored together. As such, this paper reviews literature discussing social isolation and the role of meaning in late adulthood. Based upon the literature reviewed, there is an important relationship between meaning and social isolation, presence of meaning is correlated with less objective and subjective social isolation. Implications for counselling as well as recommendations for practice and further research are explored.
late adulthood , older adults , gerontology , aging , existentialism , meaning , social isolation , counselling adults