Online Program

Living Alone and Fear of Crime: Examining the Perception of Isolation of Older Adults

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Haena Lee, MA, Department of Sociology, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Louise Hawkley, PhD, NORC at the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
This paper examines the impact of living alone on perceived isolation (e.g., feelings of loneliness and a lack of social support) for urban-dwelling older adults with a particular attention to community crime. We aim to investigate whether perceived isolation is greater among those who live alone in communities with higher levels of crime. We further examine the extent to which neighborhood context (e.g., social cohesion) and individual social network context (e.g., network size and network density) moderate the effect of living alone on perceived isolation. 
Merging a nationally representative survey of older adults (NSHAP W2, aged 62-90) to geocoded crime data, perceived isolation scale was estimated by assessing the reliability of the scales using Cronbach’s alpha. Given higher crime rates in urban areas, we limit our analysis sample to urban-dwelling respondents (N=1,708). To adjust crime report's right skewness, we divide crime incidence into tertiles. 
We find that living alone, after controlling for individual demographic and network and neighborhood social characteristics, is positively associated with the increase in perceived isolation scale, compared to those living with others. Furthermore, higher levels of total crime in communities are significantly associated with higher perceived isolation scale with holding all else constant. We also find that this association is not moderated by network size, but network density.   
Single person household is associated with greater social isolation and more vulnerable to crime. In the face of shrinking social networks, older adults may develop closer relationships resulting in feelings of social support and connectedness, and socially active within an expansive social network does not necessarily result in the perception of isolation.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the impact of living arrangement on health of older adults. Assess the impact of community crime on social isolation of older adults. Analyze the heterogeneity of social network structure of older adults.

Keyword(s): Aging, Urban Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: As NIA funded Predoctoral associates, I have involved in research on social determinants of health of older adults with a particular focus on community crime. In specific, my research interest has spanned two different areas: (1) the impact of household structure on psychosocial outcome and (2) the impact of environmental stressor on health.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.