"Social Death" for the Elderly: Survey by the “Little Brothers of the Poor”


On September 28, 2017, the association “Little Brothers of the Poor” has just published an unprecedented study entitled « Over 60: Isolated and Lonely in France in 2017” The opinion survey was carried out last June by the CSA Institute (Consumer Science and Analytics). Over 1,800 individuals were interviewed either by telephone or in person, including those in nursing homes, hospitals or prisons.
Founded in 1946, the Little Brothers of the Poor is committed to relieving isolation and loneliness. Over 12,000 elderly French people are visited at least weekly by the association’s 11,500 volunteers.
This survey established three conclusions:

  • 300,000 French who are over 60 have « no social life »: meaning they almost never, or only rarely visit with others – whether it be members of family or associations, or in social or neighborhood circles. Moreover, just because the elderly in nursing homes are surrounded by attentive caregivers, this does not exclude them from experiencing feelings of loneliness. Poverty exacerbates the risk of being isolated, as well as living in the countryside or far from a large city.


  • “Digital exclusion” or unconnected to Internet: By age group, 31% of those over 60 have never used Internet, increasing to 47% for those over 75 years old, and reaching 68% for those over 85. The various reasons include the lack of connection, or training, but also the means to subscribe. Thus, today when Internet is used for an increasing number of formalities (administrative or otherwise), the elderly have a complete disadvantage. Nevertheless, since smart phones and tablets are easier to use than computers, some communicate with friends and family, with audio and video options, in spite of geographical distances.


  • Age 85: new threshold for old age. Starting at this age, the elderly are noticeably less autonomous. They have fewer contacts, they go out less often, but nevertheless it is also the period where their children visit them more frequently: at least once a week for 62% of those parents who are 80 and over.

This study also observed that a large majority of those surveyed prefer to remain in their own homes (only 3% preferred nursing homes with medical care). One notable fact was that 88% of those over 60 declare they are happy, (compared to 82% of those over 18 years old.) The associative network plays an important role in maintaining contact with others. One in 3 individuals participated in associative activities on a weekly basis, which gave some an opportunity to establish genuine bonds of friendship.

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