DOI: 10.1002/alz.074376 ISSN: 1552-5260

Afternoons can be a critical time of the day that reflects associations between life‐space mobility and loneliness among living alone older adults: longitudinal analyses with motion sensor data

Kexin Yu, Chao‐Yi Wu, Lisa L. Barnes, Lisa C Silbert, Zachary T Beattie, Hiroko H Dodge, Jeffrey A Kaye
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Neurology (clinical)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Health Policy
  • Epidemiology



Daily activity patterns of life‐space mobility can serve as indicators for loneliness and subsequent cognitive change. Assessment of life‐space mobility often uses self‐reported data, and the measurement intervals are often less frequent than needed to capture change over time. This study examined whether the life‐space mobility changed when loneliness was reported weekly.


Participants were 139 older adults who lived alone (age = 78.1±8.6, 103 (74%) were female, 32 (23%) were African Americans, 19 (14%) had MCI diagnosis) and were enrolled in ORCATECH (ORegon Center for Aging & TECHnology) longitudinal aging studies and Minority Aging Research Study. Passive infrared motion sensors were placed in common rooms of each participant’s home (bathroom; bedroom; kitchen; living room). Time spent in each room across the day (morning; afternoon; evening; night) and out‐of‐home were used as indicators of life‐space mobility and were derived from home sensor data. Participants reported whether they felt lonely on a weekly basis using an online survey sent via email. Generalized estimating equations were used to correlate the time spent in each room and out‐of‐home and the likelihood of feeling lonely. Age, gender, education, race, cognitive status (MCI/ non‐MCI), and average daily time out‐of‐home were controlled in the model.


We analyzed 4994 weeks of data; 232 weeks had an incidence of loneliness (5%). Spending an additional hour in the bedroom in the afternoon (noon‐6 pm) was associated with a 21% increase in the likelihood of experiencing loneliness (p = .03). Spending an additional hour out‐of‐home in the afternoon was associated with a 13% decrease in the likelihood of experiencing loneliness (p = .02). Time spent in the kitchen, bathroom, and living room in a day was unrelated to weekly loneliness.


Time spent outside the home may suggest an expansion of life‐space, while spending time in one’s bedroom may indicate contraction of life space. Our findings suggest carefully monitoring a person’s location in the afternoon might help detect loneliness in this population. Frequent and objective measurements of life‐space mobility can produce renewed insights into the experience of loneliness among older adults who live alone, and thus, inform timely interventions for loneliness and prevent cognitive decline.

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