Much has been written about loneliness in recent months – and not just about the elderly who find themselves alone in later life.
Young people can become isolated, too – at a time when we have more means of communication than ever before.
And usually that’s the problem. They become so wrapped up in social media and other people’s (particularly celebrities) “perfect lives” that they no longer spend real time with their friends and families and become dissatisfied with their own imperfect lives.
The older generation sees social media for what it is – just one of the ways to keep in touch, though it is often quite impersonal. Nuances are lost and interruptions don’t mean you’re not speaking – maybe just that you’re having dinner!
Real loneliness is probably more prevalent among the very elderly, and it’s easy to see why. Friends and life partners are often no longer with us, there’s no stimulating office chat during the day, and usually children have grown up and are tending to their own offspring.
Even worse, because of our social mobility, families may not live in the same town any longer – possibly even the country.
For us 60 somethings, we still mostly enjoy reasonable health, can still get around easily and our families tend to be a little younger, so we’re called upon for “Granny duty.”
The time to start planning for older age starts now. Self-help gurus recommend doing charity or volunteering work, or joining clubs and societies, and this can certainly help, but you may not be the clubby sort.
Friends of mine have variously joined calligraphy, cross stitch and sewing groups, but this is not my thing. I ventured with a friend to the local WI – and with no offense to the wonderful ladies we met there – making cards and flower arranging wasn’t our “thing” either.
Neither is going to the gym or swimming.
What I have taken up is yoga and going to Slimming World – hoping to take care of my health. The yoga came after a serious accident, and has helped to keep me moving, while Slimming World is a good exercise because it doesn’t put too much pressure on my joints.
Both have helped me make new friends and kept me a little fitter. My Slimming World group regularly holds “tasters” where we have a party table filled with slimming foods and swap recipes, and I have even been invited on nights out with them.
But that’s not for everyone either.
If there isn’t a club for what you like – start your own! A friend and her neighbours started a wine club, and since they all enjoy reading, they set up a book club as well. One of my neighbours has set up a film club in the church hall which is going from strength to strength
Another friend and neighbour who loves to sew – and has a qualification in teaching it – has set up a business running sewing and dressmaking workshops not only to pass on her skills. The ladies who come to it enjoy the chat and the coffee – as well as making wonderful outfits.
I have a chronic condition which runs quarterly meetings to discuss the latest medical advancements, and I have made new acquaintances there too. You can choose if you want to become friends or stay acquaintances, knowing you already have something in common.
While all this is great if you can still get around on your own, if your condition or age do not permit this, see if you can find a group which also offers transport or a day centre.
Going to the hairdressers or for a manicure/pedicure can also be a huge pick-me-up and many organisations have volunteers to take the elderly to various appointments.
But if you want – or have – to stay in your home, the internet can become very addictive. You could be browsing for fashion, researching your family tree, engaging in responsible social media interaction or playing games.
There are many harmless games such as candy crush or solitaire, sudoku and crosswords where you can while away the hours. I personally love spending time on Netflix where I can watch all the latest films.
You can go to the cinema where the over-60s days mean cheap tickets and even a cup of tea! Who cares if you’re on your own once the lights go down!
Music has also played a huge part in my life, and I love listening to my old Tamla Motown music either on old-fashioned records (I still have a record player) or on CDs – I even have an old jukebox!
But most music is now available online too, at the touch of a keyboard. It brings back lovely memories of major events in my life – and I even remember all the words!
There are also online forums on all sorts of topics – from advice lines to chat rooms to religion. Be careful not to fall foul of downloading malware, though, and be very careful about giving out personal information to people you don’t know, no matter how genuine they seem.
Research has shown that elderly people are much more vulnerable to online fraud – but that’s a whole new topic and one which may prompt another post!
But nothing compares to face-to-face contact with other people, so please try not to become isolated before it’s too late. Your doctor may be able to help you find appropriate organisations if you don’t know where to start.
And remember that being alone doesn’t necessarily mean being lonely – after a lifetime of hustle and bustle and drama, it’s ok to live in peace and tranquillity.
Here are six suggestions to get you going:
If you’re in the UK you may remember an old television advert: “It’s good to talk.”
How do you deal with those lonely moments as a woman in her 60s? Have you ever started a meetup group? How do you keep yourself occupied? Let’s have a discussion about how you keep yourself occupied, or what you do to help others.