Self-Assessment of Social and Family Loneliness in Elderly During Covid-19 Pandemic in Relation to Current Level and Type of Communication Intensity
Due to the spread of coronavirus people throughout the world, Croatia included, have been forced to distant socially resulting in an increased number of people at risk of another public health problem – loneliness. Loneliness can be defined as the presence of negative emotions associated with the perceived social exclusion and is identified as one of the major issues of the aging population. There is a relatively small number of studies dealing with the use of various communication methods, particularly information and communication technologies, by the elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic and studies determining potential benefits of such activities. The aim of this research was to determine the difference in self-assessment of social and family loneliness according to the means of communication used by the elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research was conducted in March and April 2020 in the period from the introduction of the epidemiological measures of social distancing and self-isolation until the relaxation of virus-related restrictions in Croatia. The research included 107 subjects over the age of 65 living in their own homes in Bjelovar. A Frequency of the Used Communication Methods Questionnaire was constructed for the purpose of this research. The Social and Emotional Loneliness Scale for Adults was used to determine the level of loneliness. The obtained results indicate that lower levels of social and family loneliness were shown by subjects who stated in their self-assessment a higher intensity level of communication during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as making telephone/mobile phone calls, using information technology (computers for video calls, social networks, etc.) and mobile chat applications (Viber, Skype, WhatsApp, etc.), as well as having face-to-face communication. Subjects who rarely or never communicated by using any means of the abovementioned communication showed higher levels of social and family loneliness. Results of this research suggest that using various communication methods, particularly modern communication technologies, have a positive effect on reducing the level of loneliness in the elderly. Teamwork of gerontologists, communication technologists and other experts who work with older population could introduce them to communication technology thus making them more satisfied and improving their quality of life.
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