Loneliness is a pervasive human experience. It is a subjective experience that is influenced by one’s personality and situational variables. Loneliness has been recognized as a public health problem that requires the attention of clinicians and researchers both as a condition in itself and its relationship to other conditions.
The study examined and generated an in-depth understanding of loneliness as experienced by eight individuals (65 years and above) living independently. A hermeneutic-phenomenological approach was used to describe and interpret the meaning of loneliness in the lived experience of elderly individuals. These interpretations were made possible through the support of the incidental themes, which were formulated by the participants’ descriptions of their experiences of loneliness. Through interpretation, four themes emerged from explanations of how the elderly individuals interpreted loneliness. First, the participants experienced the existence of a painful void. Second, the participants experienced a state of being overwhelmed with work and emotion. Third, participants experienced a state of emotional pain. Fourth, the participants experienced a state of no direction.
These findings affirmed that negative feelings were associated with loneliness according to the participants’ descriptions. Understanding the common themes and meanings of the lived experience of these elderly individuals provides an effective base for the therapeutic relationship between counselor and the elder. The strengths and limitations of the study, and significant implications of the findings and future research, practice and education in counseling, were identified.