“Trapped in an empty waiting room”—the existential human core of loneliness in old age: A meta-synthesis

Gabriele Kitzmüller, Anne Clancy, Mojtaba Vaismoradi, Charlotte Wegener, Terese Bondas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Loneliness in old age has a negative influence on quality of life, health, and survival. To understand the phenomenon of loneliness in old age, the voices of lonely older adults should be heard. Therefore, the purpose of this meta-synthesis was to synthesize scientific studies of older adults’ experiences of loneliness. Eleven qualitative articles that met the inclusion criteria were analyzed and synthesized according to Noblit and Hare’s meta-ethnographic approach. The analysis revealed the overriding meaning of the existential human core of loneliness in old age expressed through the metaphor “trapped in an empty waiting room.” Four interwoven themes were found: (a) the negative emotions of loneliness, (b) the loss of meaningful interpersonal relationships, (c) the influence of loneliness on self-perception, and (d) the older adults’ endeavors to deal with loneliness. The joint contribution of family members, health care providers, and volunteers is necessary to break the vicious circle of loneliness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-230
Number of pages18
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number2
Early online date13 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


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