The Australian Seniors Series: Seniors and Relationships

It really doesn’t matter what age you are, having healthy relationships, socialising, and keeping in contact with those you love are vital aspects of any happy lifestyle. Unfortunately for many Australian seniors, maintaining these becomes increasingly difficult with age, and only continues to get trickier as each year passes by.

In the fourth instalment of The ‘Australian Seniors Series’, we analyse this issue and uncover how Australians over 50 are feeling about their relationships and what they are choosing to do to help cope with loneliness.

Feeling lonely? You’re not alone

For many Australian seniors who are single, widowed or divorced, experiencing loneliness is a sad fact of life with four in five respondents from this group confessing to feeling lonely at some time in the past.

And for those in this group, even meeting a potential new partner is fraught with difficulties with 80% of respondents not dating anyone at the time of the survey.

Often, this sense of isolation is triggered by specific events. For example, 39% of respondents cited the festive season as a time when their feelings of isolation are at their peak. Understandably, the anniversaries of a friend or partner’s passing, or birthdays also ranked highly as events that are likely to lead to a sense of loneliness.

Delving further into the findings, we find that when looking at all seniors (as opposed to only those living without a partner) almost half admitted to feeling socially inactive at times suggesting that feeling cut off from the rest of society is not an abnormality. It is a sad reality that feeling lonely is part of the human condition but this doesn’t mean that feeling down for extended periods of time should be easily accepted and, reassuringly, it seems that Aussie seniors aren’t letting isolation keep them down.

Life begins at 50

A massive 94% of respondents agreed that seniors need to love and feel loved, in the same way younger generations do. Despite the doom and gloom of some of the findings, it seems that most Australian seniors are for the most part leading happy and fulfilling lives.

In fact, over 70% of people reported that they are currently happy with their social life and while there is a disparity between those living with their partners to those who aren’t (81% vs 58%), for the majority of seniors, their retirement years are undoubtedly happy times.

Crucial to achieving this sense of happiness is remaining active and socialising regularly, with close to 84% stating that they participate in some form of social activity at least once a month, ensuring that they’re rubbing shoulders with friends frequently.

Technology doesn’t scare us

If getting a social fix in real life doesn’t seem possible, it appears that embracing social media provides another gateway to happiness and social interaction with seven in ten identifying themselves as currently active on social media.

This isn’t just a casual fling with technology either, with over 40% stating that they had made new friends using social media and that in almost half of these of cases, these online friendships resulted in real life meet-ups.

In fact, three quarters of respondents agreed that social media networks make them feel more socially connected, while over half agreed that they felt less lonely due to using social media and that it’s a great way to meet new people.

For an age group typically stereotyped as technology shy, these are significant results, and demonstrate the determination and enthusiasm of Aussie seniors to lead a fulfilling social life.

The future looks bright

As we have seen, while moments of loneliness are common for many Australian seniors, it needn’t be an overriding emotion. Not only are Australia’s seniors a happy bunch, they are finding new ways to stay connected to those they care about, with social media providing a surprisingly effective way not just to stay in touch, but to actually meet new people.

While there is a notable difference in the findings between those living with, or without partners, the desire to remain socially active is there for nearly all people surveyed. And so if you happen to see someone looking a bit down, don’t be afraid to offer them a helping hand. We know from the study that they’re likely to be as happy to make a new friend as you are!

Stay tuned for the next chapter of the Australian Seniors Series... A report on seniors, by Seniors.

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Seniors and Relationships Survey [pdf]