Scoping Review of the Literature Social Isolation of Seniors 2013-2014

Overlap with other concepts

Lack of consensus on the definition of social isolation poses a challenge for researchers. In addition to feelings of loneliness, the concept of social isolation overlaps with other terms, such as social vulnerability (Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia, 2011; Association québécoise des centres communautaires pour aînés [AQCCA], 2012), social exclusion, and social disconnectedness (Cornwell & Waite, 2009; Keefe et al., 2006). On the positive side, concepts such as social integration, social engagement and social capital are discussed in the literature (Keefe et al., 2006).

Social disconnectedness is defined as a lack of contact with others. More specifically, it is a lack of participation in social activities, having a small social network or irregular social interactions. Perceived isolation is considered as the subjective experience of lack of social interaction and support (Cornwell & Waite, 2009).

Lack of social integration, networks and engagement are three distinct concepts, even though they are akin to social isolation. Berkman (1995) described social integration as the degree that individuals sustain close personal relationships with others (as cited in Nicholas & Nicholson, 2008, p.1349). Social network relates to the number and structure of social interactions and the proximity of those who can interact with the individual. Lastly, a person who is integrated and engaged interacts regularly with people and participates in social activities. One who is socially isolated does not have a sense of belonging and lacks contacts (Nicholas & Nicholson, 2008)

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