Lonely? Let’s unite! News! | April 2022
May 3, 2022

euPrevent PROFILE project (Prevention of Loneliness in older people in the Euregion) is now actively working on several projects.

What exactly is loneliness? What are the risks factors/correlates of it? How can we tackle loneliness? Here are some questions that many researchers have tried to answer. One of the first action point of PROFILE was to do a sum up of studies on this topic in order to have a good overview of loneliness.

Via this newsletter, you can know about this point. You will also have an update on several deliverables (as the theatre play, citizen summit, best practices…).

Would you like to know more about the euPrevent PROFILE project? Then check out our website.

The conceptual framework

What is loneliness ?

Generally, it is defined as the discrepancy between a person’s preferred and actual level of social contact (Ong et al., 2016).

Furthermore, it is important to distinguish loneliness from social isolation : loneliness is a subjective feeling related to the unpleasant lack of relationships whereas social isolation is objectified by contacts frequency (Ong et al., 2016). Similarly, researchers distinguish loneliness from solitude : the latter is a voluntary social isolation whereas loneliness is involuntary (Ong et al., 2016).

What can trigger loneliness?

The term trigger refers to either a significant life event or life stage transition which precedes and initiates the development of problematic loneliness in an individual. They are not always  negative in nature but involve a social change and so may involve a period of adjustment (Lim et al., 2020).

  • For example, retirement is an important period of change. Therefore, involuntary retirement is associated with higher loneliness (Shin et al., 2020).
  • A recent and important trigger is the actual pandemic situation with COVID-19: in Belgium specifically, a survey, realized between September and november 2020, showing that in comparison to 2017 the loneliness has increased: for people aged of 60 years old and more, 3% declared a feeling of loneliness each day in 2017 whereas 5% declared it in 2020 (FRB, 2020). In nursing home, a survey about consequences of COVID-19 realized in Wallonia amongst 1082 residents has shown that 17% declare a feeling of loneliness (Adam et al., 2020).

What are the risk factors of loneliness ? (Lim et al. 2020)


Age Loneliness followed a U-shaped distribution: most prevalent between the ages of 18 -25 years and peaked again at 65 years for older adults.
Gender Loneliness was more prevalent in women than men
Marital status Those who are unmarried typically reported being lonelier than those who are married.
Living status Living alone was associated with higher levels of loneliness. However, those who were living in assisted living environments (e.g. nursing homes) were lonelier compared with community dwelling older adults.
Socio-economic status Lower income, lower educational level, frequency of economic problems, and living in poor neighbourhoods were associated with higher levels of loneliness
Migration status Migrants reported being more lonely than non-migrants.


Physical health Physical health indicators such as higher mortality and morbidity, poor sleep, and increased cardiovascular reactivity (higher cholesterol, blood pressure) are correlated with higher levels of loneliness .
Mental health Higher loneliness is associated with more severe mental health symptoms, including social anxiety, depression, and paranoia as well as poorer emotional regulation
Cognitive health Higher levels of loneliness were associated with accelerated cognitive decline and increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in older adults
Brain, biology & genetics Loneliness activates neural regions implicated in threat detection, attention and emotion processing. Also, higher levels of loneliness are associated with structural grey and white matter changes, altered functional and structural brain connectivity and increased circulating cortisol.

Social environmental factors

Digital communication May either increase or decrease feelings of loneliness, depending on how and why they are being used
Workplace Loneliness at the workplace is associated with poorer workplace outcomes (i.e., from lower productivity, work satisfaction, to creativity)

Loneliness as a consequence

Because loneliness is a subjective construct, it is difficult to determine how and when loneliness becomes a problem. It is important to assess: (1) how severe (i.e., how distressing is the loneliness); (2) how pervasive (i.e., does the person feel lonely in almost all contexts); (3) how chronic (i.e., how persistent is the loneliness across time) (Lim et al., 2020).

What are the possible interventions ?

Interventions to loneliness can emerge at four levels: individual, relationships, community and societal. Of course, interactions exist between levels and each intervention could be examined within each level (Lim et al., 2020).

Individual level

A meta-analysis identifies two strategies specific to loneliness (Masi et al., 2011):

  • Improving social skills (e.g. improving conversation skills) ;
  • Addressing maladaptive social cognition through cognitive behavioral therapy (Masi et al., 2011; Ong et al., 2016). This last strategy seems to have larger effect size (Masi et al., 2011).

Relationships and community level

A major element is to establish contact between people. Of course, not all contacts is positive and some recommendations has been underlined for institutions who want to bring people together (Yates, 2015) : (1) equality :  it is important that nobody feel superior or inferior to others; (2) commonality: be part of a common project; (3) inclusivity : accessible to multiple groups (not be perceived as exclusive but attractive to multiple segments of a population).

Societal level

Finally, among interventions to reduce loneliness on the societal level, we can cite educational public awareness campaign to increase awareness of loneliness and promote positive social behaviors (Lim et al., 2020).

In a global way, many interventions to reduce loneliness among older people has been developed but we cannot develop a standardized approach, suitable for everyone: interventions have to be individualized or adapted to specific groups (depending on the context, the population, the degree of loneliness…) (Fakoya et al., 2020). The failure of current approaches, therefore, lies not in the interventions per se, but in the lack of integration and adjusting particular interventions to “the right person, at the right time” (Akhter-khan & Au, 2020).

Survey for best practice

Within the framework of the project, we are looking for actions that help prevent and/or fight against loneliness of the elderly.

Why do we want to do this? We are going to create a tool that lists the actions currently implemented in the field. With this tool, we want to: encourage exchanges between the different organizations working in this field, promote good practices and increase their development.

How do we do this? A questionnaire has been created to collect these actions. You can find it here, it will be accessible until the end of May.

By participating, you allow us to have access to what is done in the field, to promote your actions and also to fight against the loneliness of the elderly.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us at this address: laura.nothelier@mc.be

Survey for training for professionals

A survey has been shared to know what is expected/needed by professionals concerning a training on loneliness. A total of 199 answers have been recolted (137 from Belgium, 46 from Germany and 23 Netherlands).

Results show that, on a general way, people want to have concrete, practical tips during a training. Testimonies are also welcomed.

More specifically, concerning loneliness, the three major thematic that people want to have on a training are:

  1. How to tackle/prevent loneliness (what to do and what not to do)
  2. Explaining the kinds of loneliness
  3. Explaining origins and risk factors of loneliness

The three main difficulties in practice concerning loneliness are:

  1. To know to whom I can address a person suffering from loneliness
  2. To know how I can approach the subject of loneliness with someone
  3. To find the right opportunity and time to talk about loneliness with people who suffer from it.

Concerning the formal aspects of the training, the most appreciate format is face to face, with a length of 4 hours.

The results of this survey will be taken into account for the creatin of the training.

Theatre play

Theatre as a means to talk about loneliness

Loneliness is something that both young and old people have to deal with. To find out what it means to someone, talking about it is the first step.  But talking about loneliness is not easy. The euPrevent PROFILE project wants to give everyone the opportunity to discuss the topic by means of the theatre package ‘Starlight’ (Dutch: Sterrelicht).

‘Starlight’ is a theatre package created by Flemish director Luc Stevens. It is the abridged version of his theatre play ‘Sterrelicht en Appeltaart’ (English: Starlight and Apple Pie).

What inspired you to create the original theatre play ‘Starlight and Apple Pie’?

Luc Stevens: During corona, I saw many people around me who were struggling with the lack of contact. My mother lived alone and she missed the warmth of our family.  My brother is the director of a residential care centre. He also saw the loneliness increasing. After a strange dream, in which I saw myself flying above houses with open roofs and many lonely people behind the walls, I started to write. I wanted to make a play about warm neighbourhoods where people can meet and connect with each other again.

What exactly is the story about?

Luc Stevens: We follow the lives of a number of characters connected with the residential care home: a nurse, a resident, a regular visitor and a volunteer. Each has his or her own character, life course and problems. We also see people from the neighbourhood who feel lonely. Each in their own way behind the four walls! An unforeseen twist turns the residential care centre upside down, but the dream of one of the protagonists creates a unifying force that prevents people from giving up, and helps them to meet and strengthen each other. ‘Starlight’ is a positive story, in which true connection is established. It is a touching story full of humour, which is at the same time hopeful and cosy. It is about young and old meeting each other in warm neighbourhoods.

What message do you want to convey?

Luc Stevens: A message of connection. Above all, I want to touch all people. Young and old, so that they will reflect on the problem of loneliness. Hopefully, they will be stimulated to look left or right in their neighbourhood. And who knows, maybe they will take action. No matter how small it is for themselves. It will be big for others.

The idea is that organisations can perform the play ‘Starlight’ themselves. Is that really feasible?

Luc Stevens: ‘Starlight’ has been developed in such a way that, in addition to the script and an accompanying film, organisations also receive a roadmap that describes what is needed to perform the play and how best to do it. You do not need more than 5 actors to perform it. A stage is not required. ‘Starlight’ can be performed by local theatre companies, but we are also thinking of a residential care centre, a community centre, a local association for senior citizens, etc. In short, anyone who wants to can get involved and perform the play.

Triggered by this interview? We are still looking for organisations that would like to get started with the theatre package ‘Starlight’. Would you like to know more about it?

Then contact us at sterrelicht@euprevent.eu

The CitizenSummit: Intergenerational dialoges between young and old

The pandemic has highlighted  that we rely on our municipalities and social neighbourhoods. Many people – especially older and younger target groups- have experienced increased loneliness and isolation. However, in times of crisis the solidarity between generations at all levels, in families, communities and neighbourhoods was of high importance. Younger and older people came together to support each other in the community – building new relationships, trust and respect and strenghtening the dialogue between all ages.

During summer 2022 we want to organize small regional dialogues between older and younger participants to discuss how to be prepared in the future to tackle loneliness and isolation in an age friendly enviroment for all generations.

Together, we are committed to establishing and expanding networks in the solidarity between generations in our regions, higlighting the role of active citizenship and promoting the exchange of knowledge and ressources in the EMR regions.

Sharing is caring: good practices to tackle loneliness in older people

Home visits to fight against loneliness.

For a few years now, many local Red Cross entities, including Verviers and Liège, have been offering a volunteer service aimed at combating the loneliness of the elderly. Thus, when a person feels lonely and isolated, he or she can call on this service which will set up a Tandem. The tandem, made up of the beneficiary and a volunteer, will meet regularly to chat, share a coffee or take a walk. These visits allow the older person to keep in touch with the outside world, to get out of his or her thoughts, to discuss different subjects…   For some, these meetings help them regain their self-confidence to go outside and find company by themselves.

Are you interested in this project? You can find more information here or here

De Klapbus

The “De Klapbus” project of the city of Halen and service centre De Klapstoel facilitates social encounters in the various submunicipalities and neighbourhoods of the city.
A bus with tables, chairs and coffee on board loosens tongues. People chat and neighbours hear what is going on, which also has the effect of spontaneously offering each other help. But it is more than that. People who want to take part in activities in our service centre, but who have difficulty getting around, also make use of ‘De Klapbus’.

Besides this social aspect, the bus also has a service function. It is a mobile and accessible counter, as it were. A morning when the Klapbus receives visits from 10 to 15 people is no exception. A success, therefore!

Are you interested in this project? You can find more information here

The Coalition Together against Loneliness South Limburg

The Coalition Together against Loneliness South Limburg… Started with the signing of a covenant by 9 South Limburg municipalities. In December 2020, they signed up for a regional approach against loneliness during a playful relay through South Limburg: Beekdaelen, Heerlen, Valkenburg aan de Geul, Landgraaf, Kerkrade, Gulpen-Wittem, Beek, Sittard-Geleen and Stein. The Province of Limburg and KBO Limburg also participate in this regional approach.

Meanwhile, the municipalities of Eijsden-Margraten, Voerendaal, Vaals and Maastricht also joined the Coalition.

From local approach to regional cooperation
All municipalities in South Limburg have developed their own local approach. Sharing experience and knowledge about what works, contributes to regional cohesion.
The aim of the Coalition is to start a broad movement against loneliness in South-Limburg.
The Coalition does this through regional cooperation on 2 points:
1. Expertise promotion – > through, for example, master classes and regular coordination.
2. Broad regional campaign – > in December 2021, the Coalition conducted a joint campaign on the buses that run throughout South Limburg to draw attention to loneliness. The same message everywhere….

In this way, the South Limburg Coalition Together against Loneliness is part of a powerful movement of motivated people and organizations that together make a difference in South Limburg.


The KulTour accompaniment service aims to give lonely seniors access to cultural and public life.

The service can include individual accompaniment: (1:1 accompaniment to events) or group accompaniment, e.g. joint excursion / visit to an event or cultural destination. Participants are accompanied safely from home to their destination and back home during the event / outing.
They experience caring and loving spiritual support.

You can find more information here

Would you like to contribute to the euPrevent PROFILE project? Or maybe you have a good practice you would like to share?
Then be sure to let us know via: communication@euprevent.eu