Department or Program

Environmental Studies


Loneliness’ sweeping scale and deep inroads in post-industrialized countries like the U.S. and Chile presents an injustice and a resource challenge, especially as it pervades the lives of older adults. 1 of 4 older Americans is lonely, and 4 in 10 are lonely for 6 years or more. Capable of startling mental and physical effects, experts liken long-term loneliness to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. As older adults become increasingly vulnerable to loneliness, so, too, do state and local medical, social service, and other aging resources. The older American cohort grows by several million every decade, compounding concern. Chile increasingly hears a similar public health alarm bell. After a period of silence around this issue, “aging” countries’ media to medical circles alike now pronounce loneliness an epidemic, crisis, silent assassin. And therefore, a priority of gaining age-friendly community movements.

Despite advances in areas including the geography of aging, there remains a gaff in research and strategy which weighs environmental determinants of aging experiences such as loneliness. I conducted a qualitative study of approximately 70 older adults aging in place and aging providers in two case-study localities: Androscoggin County, Maine and Temuco, La Araucanía, Chile. These studies reveal loneliness’ roots in an individual, place-specific merging of scarcity and change—be it economic, cultural, social, emotional, creative and intellectual, mental and physical. As well as existing and recommended antidotes in environment.

I created The EngAging Project, a website resource which harnesses audio recordings and photography to interactively share older adults’ stories, as well as accessible overviews of the patterns and variations in how, where, and why elder loneliness manifests. Using the voices of older adults and their connections, quite literally, this resource aims to inform and motivate personal, local, and systematic action which enables not just “aging in place,” but “engAging in community.”

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

First Advisor

Jane Costlow

Second Advisor

Francis Eanes

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Community Engagement



Available to Bates community via local IP address or Bates login.