Lonely older people as a problem in society – construction in Finnish media

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Hanna Uotila
Kirsi Lumme-Sandt
Marja Saarenheimo

Abstract

Loneliness is a prevalent stereotype of old age but there is a lack of studies of how it is represented in mass media. This study examines how the loneliness of older people is portrayed in mass media. The research material consists of 154 texts from the leading 50+ magazines and daily newspapers in Finland. In the texts, loneliness was rarely seen solely as a lack of companionship and many negative attributes were connected to it. Among other things, loneliness was connected to the low status of older people in society, inhumane practices in elderly care, lack of meaning in life and neglect by relatives. Loneliness was also viewed as an inevitable part of ageing. However, many suggestions were made to alleviate loneliness. The extent of these suggestions varied from broad and collective actions to simple and perfunctory solutions.

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