What protects older Romanians in Switzerland from loneliness? A life-course perspective

R.O. Ciobanu, T. Fokkema

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


The topic of loneliness among older migrants has recently gained scholarly interest. There is a particular focus on why older migrants are generally lonelier than their non-migrant peers from the destination. These studies neglect variations both within and between older migrant groups. Our qualitative study is innovative for three reasons. First, it focuses on Romanian migrants aged 65+ who fled communism and aged in place in Switzerland—an understudied population of former political refugees that experiences little or no loneliness in later years. Second, it takes a life-course approach to explore experiences of loneliness during communist Romania, in the context of migration and later in life. Third, it focuses on protective and coping factors rather than risk factors. Having been through hard times in communist Romania—marked by fear and distrust among people and estrangement from society—older Romanian migrants built strength to withstand difficult times, learned to embrace solitude, and/or to relativise current hardships, if any. Upon arrival many founded or joined an association or church, which offers the opportunity to establish a sustainable social network consisting of a large pool of Romanian non-kin with a shared past and experience of migration and integration, to counteract social losses in later life. When moments of loneliness cannot be prevented (e.g. due to death of a spouse), they try to be active to distract from loneliness or ‘simply’ accept the situation. These aspects need to be taken into account in future research and when developing loneliness interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-331
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Ageing
Issue number3
Early online date17 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2021


  • older migrants
  • political refugees
  • loneliness
  • protective factors
  • coping strategies
  • Life course


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