The personal communities of men experiencing later life widowhood

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Increasingly men are becoming widowed in later life due in part to a longer life expectancy. Social networks and social support are thought to help buffer the negative consequences of such later life transitions. This paper explores the personal communities of a group of older men experiencing widowhood. Qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted, September 2013-February 2014, with seven older widowers, 71-89 years of age, in North Staffordshire, United Kingdom (UK). Interviews included personal community diagrams to identify the structure of the older men’s social relationships. Data analysis comprised thematic analysis of interview transcripts and content analysis of personal community diagrams. Three overarching themes were identified from the interview data: ‘Personal identity and resilience assist transition’, ‘Continuity in personal communities provides stability’ and ‘Changes in social relationships and practices facilitate adaptation’. The study identified three types of personal community among the older widowers, comprising different combinations of family, friends and others. The findings illustrate that some older widowers have very restricted personal communities which puts them at greater risk of loneliness and social isolation. The social needs of long term carers should be addressed as isolation and loneliness can begin long before the death of a spouse. It is important to consider gender differences and preferences when designing interventions for older people in order to promote engagement, social inclusion and wellbeing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e422-e430
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Issue number3
Early online date18 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


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