Social and Spatial Aspects of Loneliness: Challenges to Belong and Acquiring a Sense of Home in a Senior Housing Facility in Denmark


  • Anne Mia Steno University College Copenhagen



Loneliness, Aging, Home, Space, Senior housing facility


This paper contributes to the literature on loneliness by exploring how loneliness is impacted by a sense of home and experiences and negotiations of belonging. With an ethnographic point of departure in a newly established senior housing facility for older adults experiencing loneliness in Denmark, the paper discusses loneliness as a social and spatial phenomenon that is not static and does not exclusively pertain to the individual. Instead, it is something that is reshaped and (re)negotiated among the residents and their surroundings. This holds promise for welfare professionals to work on alleviating loneliness among older adults at senior housing facilities through working with the arrangements of the social and physical environments. This paper also notes that structures and physical settings that are purportedly supportive can also alienate older adults and hence risk worsening their experiences of loneliness.

Author Biography

Anne Mia Steno, University College Copenhagen

Associate Professor, the Faculty of Education and Social Sciences, University College Copenhagen


Ahmed, Sara. 2006. Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Object, Others. Duke University Press.

Cacioppo, John T., and William Patrick. 2008. Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection. New York: WW Norton.

Dresch, Paul, and Wendy James. 2000. “Introduction: Fieldwork and the Passage of Time.” In Anthropologists in a Wider World, edited by Paul Dresch, Wendy James and David Parkin, 1-26. Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Hauge, Solveig, and Kristin Heggen. 2008. “The Nursing Home as a Home: A Field Study of Residents Daily Life in the Common Living Rooms.” Journal of Clinical Nursing. 17 (4): 460-467. 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2007.02031.x

Holen, Mari. 2023. “Irriterende Patienter Og Deres Endnu Mere Irriterende Pårørende.” In Pissedårlig Sygepleje, edited by Dorthe and Alexander von Oettingen , 85-96. Copenhagen: Hans Reitzels forlag.

Lasgaard, Mathias, Julie Christiansen, Maj Bekker-Jeppesen, and Karina Friis. 2020. Ensomhed i Danmark -Analyse Af Befolkningsdata Fra 2017. Region Midtjylland.

Ozawa-De Silva, Chikako. 2021. The Anatomy of Loneliness: Suicide, Social Connection, and the Search for Relational Meaning in Contemporary Japan. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.

Ozawa-De Silva, Chikako, and Michelle Parsons. 2020. “Toward an Anthropology of Loneliness.” Transcultural Psychiatry 57: 613–22.

Rubinstein, Robert I., and Patricia A. Parmelee. 1992. “Attachment to Place and the Representation of the Life Course by the Elderly.” In Place Attachment, edited by Irwin Altman and Setha Low, 139-63. New York: Plenum Press.

Daniel Russell, Anne Peplau, and Carolyn Cutrona. 1980. “The Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale: Concurrent and Discriminant Validity Evidence.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 39 (3): 472–480.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. 2018. [1943]. Being and Nothingness. Routledge. New York.

Steno, Anne Mia. 2023. “Bodies and Orientations. Perspectives and Strategies among Service Users in Psychosocial Rehabilitation Housing Facilities in Denmark.” Anthropology and Medicine 30 (1):17-30.

Steno, Anne Mia. 2020. "Farlig intimitet? Nærhed og distance i feltarbejdet." Jordens Folk. Temanummer om intimitet. Etnografisk forening. 55. årgang. Nr. 1.

Steno, Anne Mia. 2015. Ungdomsliv i en Uddannelsestid: Kønnede, klassede og tidsbundne driblerier i og mellem erhvervsuddannelser. Roskilde University: PhD diss.

Steno, Anne Mia, and Alexandra Ryborg Jønsson. 2022. "Spaces out of Reach? Service User Involvement in Residents’ Meetings at Recovery-oriented Social Housing Facilities for Young People with Mental Health Disorders." Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine 27 (6): 1-17.

Timmermans, Stefan, and Iddo Tavory. 2012. “Theory Construction in Qualitative Research: From Grounded Theory to Abductive Analysis.” Sociological Theory 30 (3): 167–86.

Vacher, Mark. 2010. “Looking at Houses, Searching for Homes: An Anthropological Analysis of the Relationship between Danish Homeowners and Their Houses.” Ethnologia Scandinavia. A Journal for Nordic Ethnology 40: 52-67

Wahl-Brink, Dorit, Mia Olesen, and Christina Rejkjær. 2015. “Ensomhed Blandt Ældre: Myter Og Fakta.” Marselisborg - center for udvikling, kompetence og viden.

Zhang, Angela Rong Yang. 2022. At Home in the Nursing Home. An Ethnography of Movement and Care in Australia. New York: Berghahn Books.