Scientific Program / 6th July / Plenary Session 09:00 - 10:30

Language: English, with translation into German, Italian and French

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Loneliness and the need to belong: aspects of loneliness 

Prof. Dr. Anja MACHIELSE

Main hall theatre / From 9:00 to 9:45 



Anja Machielse is Professor of ‘Empowerment of Vulnerable Older Adults’. Her research is focused on persons who are less able to deal with the complexity of daily life. Questions about social vulnerability (loneliness, social isolation), relational involvement and meaningfulness are central in her work. She wrote several books and articles on social contacts, loneliness and social isolation (among others: Social Isolation in Modern Society (New York/London:Routledge). She is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Dutch Government for the policy to combat loneliness and social isolation.



Loneliness and the need to belong: aspects of loneliness

Social relationships with relatives, friends and acquaintances are important resources for the personal functioning of people and offer a unique chance to meet belongingness needs. However, in modern Western societies, meaningful and supportive personal relationships have become less self-evident. Due to societal developments (like individualisation processes) people are less able to fall back on ‘given’ bonds such as family or neighbourhood relationships. Especially major life-events can cause loneliness: a divorce, the death of a loved one, retiring, moving, a decreasing health condition, and ageing often have a negative effect on the size or quality of the social network. In her lecture, Anja Machielse explores different aspects of loneliness: the great diversity among lonely persons, the consequences of loneliness for their self-worth and self-respect, and their lack of social support. She also explores the personal competencies and social skills that are necessary to make meaningful contacts; skills that are needed to show vulnerability and to ask for help in times of adversity. Anja Machielse also gives insight into the strategies lonely people use to deal with their situation, and the possibilities they see of changing their situation. She shows that lonely people develop habits and rituals to meet their social needs that often intensify their loneliness. The lecture makes clear that social interventions should fit with the ambitions and strategies of the lonely people involved.