Belongingness challenged: Exploring the impact on older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic

Derrer-Merk, Elfriede ORCID: 0000-0001-7241-0808, Ferson, Scott, Mannis, Adam, Bentall, Richard P and Bennett, Kate M ORCID: 0000-0003-3164-6894
(2022) Belongingness challenged: Exploring the impact on older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. PLOS ONE, 17 (10). e0276561-e0276561.

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<jats:sec id="sec001"> <jats:title>Objectives</jats:title> <jats:p>The sense of belonging is a fundamental human need. Enacting it through face-to-face social activities was no longer possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this study, we investigate how the sense of belonging, and how it is enacted, changed longitudinally amongst older adults in the UK. In addition, we examine the interplay of the sense of belonging and resilience over time.</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec id="sec002"> <jats:title>Methods</jats:title> <jats:p>We employed a longitudinal qualitative research design to explore the experiences of older adults during one year of the COVID-19 pandemic (April 2020-April 2021). The analysis was undertaken with constructivist grounded theory.</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec id="sec003"> <jats:title>Findings</jats:title> <jats:p>Before the pandemic older adults were free to engage in social relationships with family and friends, often enacted within social activity groups where they felt valued and gained positive experiences. During the pandemic face to face enactment of belongingness was reduced; adjustments needed to be made to maintain the sense of belonging. The experience of older adults was heterogeneous. We examine three themes. First, how belongingness was enacted prior to the pandemic. Examples include: family holidays, visiting each other, sports activities, eating with friends and family, and visiting cultural events. Second, how participants adapted and maintained their social involvement. Examples include: distanced face-to-face activities; and learning new technology. Third, for some, a belongingness gap emerged and persisted. There was an irretrievable loss of family members or friends, the closure of social groups, or withdrawal from groups as priorities changed. As a consequence, of challenged belongingness, participants expressed increased loneliness, anxiety, social isolation, frustration and, feelings of depression. For many, the disrupted sense of belonging no longer fostered resilience, and some previously resilient participants were no longer resilient.</jats:p> </jats:sec>

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Humans, Social Isolation, Loneliness, Qualitative Research, Aged, Pandemics, COVID-19
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Population Health
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 21 Oct 2022 08:21
Last Modified: 06 May 2023 00:36
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0276561
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