Loneliness - Seniors Speak Out ……
Loneliness - Seniors Speak Out ……
I've never enjoyed being alone. More than three decades ago, circumstances took me to another path where I was left alone after the death of my husband at age 36 with two small children to care for. That was a situation I never imagined to be in, but since fate had intervened, life had to go on. On the other hand, some people like being alone and have been throughout their lives. You would have heard people referring to them as being a ‘lone ranger” or even a “loner”
Then there are those who get to be alone as they grow older and if you ask them if they like the situation they are in, you will get an affirmative. For example, these people may be Carers or those responsible for other people and being alone in later life gives them the freedom to rediscover themselves. To them, being alone does not mean feeling lonely in later life. They will on their own get together with their friends from time to time or have some activities they engage in to not be alone. So being alone means just that, being on your own.
Loneliness on the other hand is an emotion, which describes a feeling of sadness attributed to not having connection. You are unhappy with the emotional and social relationships that you do not have, or with the ones that you do have. Maybe you are struggling with a bad situation in your life and have the feelings of emptiness, being unwanted and the fear of being chronically alone. Sometimes you may not feel like wanting to connect with anyone during that time and that makes you feel lonely.
For the elderly men and women – when their respective spouses pass away, they do feel very lonely especially when their partner was a confidante and friend all rolled in one. This loss can have a huge impact on their very being for a long time. Grieving is a normal human reaction to losing someone you care about.
What Leads to Loneliness in Later Life?
To older adults- the loneliness feeling can be very intense. Their movements are curtailed for various reasons, and they must deal with changes in health and lifestyles and in a pandemic lockdown situation, it can get worse. So coupled with physical pain and loss of mobility, the elderly finds it more difficult to get out and enjoy activities with other people. Where women are concerned, if they lose their spouse, there is the situation where there is less income and fewer opportunities to get out. Some may have been so dependent on their husband to drive them around and with the loss of their spouse, they can feel lonely when they are unable to get about as before. If you are on your own caring for someone else, this situation can also make you lonely. Feeling different, feeling depressed, or not speaking the same language can make connecting with others more difficult as people grow older.
Being lonely – What happens to you?
You are more likely to get ill and have infections as loneliness puts your immune system under stress. So being lonely is hard on a person’s health. It can also be stressful, and some people turn towards medications to ease the stress to reduce the feelings of fear or anxiety.
So how do you prevent and reduce loneliness?
There is a difference between being a loner and being shy. Do small talk and keep some sort of conversation going. If you are one who has a more open type of personality, then it’s so easy and you can make a difference in someone else’s life. Put that to good use.
Here are some suggestions.
- Start small by smiling - it does not cost anything, and people will come forward to be friendly. A simple “Hello”, Good morning or good evening will make others smile by reaching out first. Soon this gesture will develop into a friendship and life will begin to be meaningful to the elderly.
- Help someone else. People often feel better when they can help someone. Soon other people will return the help and a caring bond will develop. A sense of being useful is always a good uplift.
- Keep connected and make the effort to reach out. Even if there is an initial reluctance to reciprocate, they will eventually know you care and will at some point recognise the effort.
- Even if loneliness strikes at some point in your life, try to not fall deeply into it. If you get stuck in negative thinking or judgment around your loneliness, accept that emotion and engage in activities that makes you feel good.
Just remember that you’re only as alone or lonely as you let yourself be. If you don’t like where you are, try one of the options above and change it. Kick loneliness to the curb and start living.