Exploring frames of social isolation & loneliness


Public health studies often suggest that isolation and loneliness are as deadly as smoking and the dominant narrative, supported by population-wide surveys, informs us that isolation and loneliness are especially a problem amongst older adults.

On the other hand, spiritual traditions and iconic literature counsels that isolation and loneliness can also be liberating. There may be those who are content with how things are and there may be those who have purposely withdrawn and distanced themselves.  So we wonder… who gets to set the frame? When is isolation and loneliness normal, even developmental?


Explore real stories & emerging patterns>

Analyzing over 113 experiences of people over the age of 50 over three years of research, plus the latest behavioral and psychosocial literature, we find that the experience of isolation and loneliness may, in fact, be a point of connection.

How could we make meaning from this not-common experience and inform how our policies, services, programs and centres to more effectively engage the gamut of older adults?, we’ve listened to 113 people over the age of fifty.

The Questions of the Ages is an interactive PDF that aggregates their experiences to better understand themes of social isolation and loneliness and the range of conceptualizations on living, aging and in some cases, dying well.

What this is:

  • A scrapbook: that showcases some of the methods and tactics we use to meet people over age fifty in settings they are already in, highlighting the disciplines we use to make sense of what we encounter.
  • A trend report: that offers aggregated portraits of 113 people over 50 across Canada
  • An essay: that shares how we have used cultural theory to interrogate concepts like isolation and wellness and poses provocative questions to those who frame policy problems, allocate resources, and deliver services.
  • …and a case study: that provides an in-progress example of how one team at the City of Edmonton has started to embrace culture as a key lever for social change.

Download resources

The Questions Of The Ages: Stories, numbers, insights on aging across Canada

pdf ⋅ 13 MB

If you have Adobe Acrobat and want to download an interactive PDF, download it here. Otherwise use the link above to view online.