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Combatting the Epidemic of Loneliness in Seniors

29 Comments

what happens when a senior who has children don't come or call, not even when I am in the hospital. No one calls or visits, not even the gr. children. I had a gr. child that was living w/me & he got killed less then a month ago. I just feel like no one cares and I don't have a of money seeing as I am retired now. I don't hardly eat so I no longer cook. what am I to do?

All of the *few* groups around here that I'd be interested in joining are full of younger people & as nice as the young gals are in the ones I've tried joining, I really miss the companionship of gals closer to my age, someone who can relate to the aches, pains, indignities (can't sit thru a movie without having to use the restroom, etc.) of old age; alas only grps for gals in my age group are kid/grandkids, religion, arts/crafts related, none of which I'm at all interested. You know, some of the best advice I ever got was from some1 on the internet: "Sounds like with your interests, you'd be better off in or near a large city." Which, if I could afford it & my hubby would move, I'd do in a red-hot minute. But too late now.

The article does reflect what tends to happen as we age. However, I find that I can make new friends and I am 78. They are much younger than I am and that is good, I have a sig other I met about 7 years ago and several friends I met when in my 70s. I have also lost friends through death, illness or by them moving to other locations. Sig other is very busy so I tend to spend quite a lot of time alone but I don't mind that and I am not lonely. Sometimes it is a matter of reaching out to others - taking the risk to get to know someone better. My kids have their own lives which at times include me but not regularly and I am OK with that. All the suggestions are good but do not fit everyone. We each have to carve out our own way.

Very good postings, all; but whether it's because historically in this country the elderly were living with family members & that was considered to be enough for them or some other reason, groups such as Doitnow1234 suggested don't seem to work. Several (including myself) have tried such groups in this area & they get nowhere, almost total lack of interest. (And admittedly, there's a real lack of interest in all age groups joining things any more--& they don't notice their loneliness & growing social isolation becuz they're busy still working, raising, family, taking care of elderly parents/spouse, etc--but it's the hardest, as all things in life are, for the elderly becuz you just simply spend most of every day alone. And groups that are set up specially to get people together to socialize do not work, probably becuz most people want things to feel as natural and spontaneous as possible not this awkward, being thrown together like kids being dropped off somewhere for a play date. And guess what: these kinds of groups are never going to work becuz humans spent most of our evolution whole families either living together or nearby; then as recently (as human history goes) as shortly after World War II (here in the US anyway), everybody started moving around constantly. And it wasn't the kind of immigration as before WW2 when whole families would move to a new area; nope, it was some guy who had gone to college (& the 1st ever in his family to do so) on the G.I. Bill, picked up his high school sweetheart & married her & moved far away from all family & friends. (And most of the defense contractors, corporations, etc. these guys worked for were moving them as often as every 6 months, so no chance to make lasting friends with the neighbors.) So since there doesn't seem to be any chance of changing all this, old people are going to be getting lonelier & lonelier. When I was young a long time ago, I heard more than once, old folks talking about how if you manage at all to make friends once you're grown, they won't be anywhere near as good as friends you make when you're a kid. Turns out they were right; recent brain mapping shows that the part of the brain used in making friends peaks at the age of 8 & then it's downhill after that. Who knew Gram & Gramps knew so much!

Growing old is now often a real problem - especially in the U.S. Elders in many other cultures are treated with respect and are not generally pushed aside. This is not that most people here do not love them but the pace of life and demands made on Americans are often so great (not to mention the cost of living for the so-called "middle class" which is disappearing) that care-givers are stretched to the limit to care for their own children and selves as well as aging relatives. Extended families are almost unheard of anymore and smaller families may leave few members to be of much help.
Abandoning the experiential knowledge and know-how of the senior generation is an unfortunate mistake, especially among men and women with extensive education and exposure to the modern workings of today's commercial interactions and economics. Training and insight from exposure to what will work and what won't is rarely explored by the newly educated youth and may be last for consideration by more mature individuals.

I myself am now alone and like many seniors find these years somewhat of an unwanted surprise as now retired, friends and family are diminished and looking for activity more suitable to their own surroundings - not that they don't care anymore but that opportunities to interact may be less available. Finding meaningful conversation and activity with other human beings fills the soul with joy. Not even travel, game-playing, or entertainment meets this need. The spirit begins to die and the body follows.

I want to start a group to help fill the empty hearts of seniors alone. Holidays and birthdays are often spent in deep lonliness and depression. Why couldn't we meet together to enjoy these special times? Some special emphasis' we could explore are: a "favorite things" group (or discussion), teach us something, favorite recipes, colors, memories, nicest comments ever received, pets, and why. We could play "Show and Tell", tell jokes, demonstrate a skill, or if a business person, important knowledge.

Your article is right on, for caregivers. I was one for my husband for about 7yrs. Now I am alone, isolated, lonely, able to take physical care of myself for the time being. But making new social contacts is not easy. Nor does family always understand that. Is there an organization or website for elders, where we can share from our point of view,?

Loneliness is unfortunately such a common problem for the older generation. I've been helping my father adapt to mobility issues that have contributed to his loneliness and depression. Fortunately, I was able to find walking sticks and The Silver Line Helpline to help him cope. It's very important that the elderly feel part of the community, and helping my dad move around more easily and talk to people more easily seems to have helped him.

Sometimes bridging the generation gap can be more difficult today than it was in the past simply because we are waiting to have families until we are in our mid thirties and forties. I used to love going for holidays to my grandparents house, and getting to know them for who they were was a real building block toward who I later became. It's not so easy when gram and gramps are in their 70's and 80's and possibly in declining health.

I would also like to point out that it is not just seniors who are isolated and lonely. Many caregivers are as isolated as those they are caring for, I have even heard it described as like being under house arrest. Yes we can communicate instantly through texts and email, but it is not the same thing as real human contact.

I want to follow this article. My 90 year old Mother fits in. Write more later.

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I liked this article. It serves as something informative and also a reminder that there are older people out there that are lonely. You'd think that this day and age there wouldn't be as many, but technology doesn't seem to solve everything. We should all strive to make more effort in helping our elderly population. Even the small things like talking to an elderly stranger in a store or in the doctor's office, helping them with their groceries (like pushing the cart out to their vehicle or elder van), even just a smile goes a long way to make their day. These things are free but add so much to their lives. If everyone did just one little thing, maybe it would be a step in the right direction of helping them feel less lonely. Thanks for the article.