Loneliness is a risk factor for older adults, one exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although time spent alone is associated with both loneliness and greater well-being, the experience of solitude may depend on the type of activity pursued. We examined formal prosocial activity as one facilitator of positive solitary experiences. Older adults ( N = 165, Mage = 71.13, SD = 5.70) highly committed to prosocial-program work (e.g., tutoring) filled out surveys at six random times every day for a week. Using multilevel modeling, we investigated whether participating in prosocial-program activity alone was associated with greater well-being compared to other solitary activity. While prosocial-program activity did not buffer against negative affect in solitude, it promoted positive affect and relatedness when alone. To the extent that prosocial-program work can facilitate positive solitary experiences by enhancing feelings of connection, it may protect against threats to well-being posed by loneliness in later life.

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Mann, A., Boeder, J., Tse, D., Graham, L. & Nakamura, J. 2022, 'Solitary prosociality in later life: an experience sampling study', Research on Aging. https://doi.org/10.1177/01640275211062124

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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