Old age loneliness and isolation in France: what are the links with the territories?


On 1st October 2019, Older Persons’ International Day, les Petits Frères des Pauvres published a report which looks at to the issue of isolation as experienced by older persons in France and calls for policy actions.

Many public policies rely on the number of seniors living alone to lead initiatives to combat isolation of older people, notes AGE’s French member organisation. Yet, even if living alone aggravates isolation especially in older age, the parameter of “residential loneliness” is not sufficient to measure older people’s isolation and the actions to be taken. A gap which results into many of isolated seniors not being taken into account in official statistics.

In a new report, les Petits Frères des Pauvres analyses more closely the place of older people within the various territories and the links between their isolation and the specific territorial contexts.

PetitsFreresDesPauvres_Rapport_Solitude_Sept2019-cover Some of the lessons learned

  • 4.6 million French people aged 60 and over feel lonely
  • 3.2 million are at risk of relational isolation
  • In urban areas, isolation is aggravated by reduced solidarity and neighbourhood relations
  • In rural areas, solidarity is stronger but the isolation is reinforced by the lack of daily services and transport
  • Many seniors want better access to public space and adapted transport services (on-demand transport)

Recommendations for action

The report makes 15 recommendations (detailed in the full report) structured around 5 main purposes:

  • to better observe the isolation of seniors in the French territories (including officially measuring relational isolation),
  • to carry out actions as close as possible to the territories (including building a territorial proximity policy to combat the isolation of seniors),
  • to raise awareness among the general public and encourage citizenship (including encouraging citizen engagement and local solidarity),
  • to promote housing solutions adapted to the territories (including developing temporary housing in rural areas) and
  • to promote the daily lives of our seniors in all territories (including developing transportation on demand).

Among their major calls for action:

  • Build a local territorial policy to fight against the isolation of the older population in France: the best territorial level is the community, with solutions that differ from one territory to another.
  • Improve the daily lives of seniors: better access to public space, maintenance of local services and businesses, on-demand transportation, development of conviviality spaces and itinerant businesses, fight against digital exclusion.
  • Encourage civic engagement and local solidarity: ‘we are all the cure’

Visit Les Petits Frères des Pauvres’ website for further information.

Download the full report here (pdf – in French)

This is not the first report published by les Petits Frères des Pauvres to mark the 1st of October. In 2017, the French organisation published the report “Solitude et isolement, quand on a plus de 60 ans en France” (“Solitude and Isolation, when you are over 60 in France”). This barometer provides a significant overview of the situation of older people at national level. It also notes the strong territorial disparities linked to isolation and its various factors. More on this report here (in French)

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