Is Loneliness Becoming More Common? How Will This Impact Our Aging Population? (Video)
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the number of ways that we have to communicate with each other? When we were growing up, letters and (occasionally) telephone calls were the ways that we communicated. Now, our computers are buzzing, blinking orchestras of Facebook messages, Twitter notifications, Skype calls, email messages and more!
Our opportunities to interact with others in person are no less diverse. Every city has meet-ups, social clubs, church groups, gyms and community centers. But, this raises an interesting question – if we have so many ways to connect with each other, as human beings, why do more of us than ever feel lonely?
In a recent interview, I asked loneliness expert, Kory Floyd, to give us his perspective on this. I think that you will find his thoughts fascinating. Take a few minutes to watch the video. Then, let’s get a conversation started.
How Are We Lonely, When We Are More Connected than Ever?
Technology is expanding at an exponential rate. Unfortunately, our own research shows that the women in our community feel more socially isolated than ever. Specifically, in a recent Sixty and Me poll, 75% of respondents said that they felt lonely.
In our interview, Kory explains that the quality of our social lives does not necessarily increase with more connections. We can have 500 “friends” on Facebook, while still feeling totally alone. A “like” on Facebook may make us feel better temporarily, but, it won’t solve our larger social problems. A short email is better – but, not much.
What we really need a meaningful conversations with people who share our interests. We need to feel someone hug us. We need to look into the eyes of another person and see them looking back at us. We need genuine friendships, not just surface-level connections.
It’s Time to Take Control of Your Social Life
I hear again and again that people over 60 don’t want more people in their lives – they want the right people in their lives. In our interview, Kory offers some insightful advice to help with this problem.
First, he suggests that we take stock of our own personal affection and social needs. What do you mean when you use the words “friendship,” “intimacy,” and “love?” Do you like to spend time with people who are stimulating or relaxing? Do you most miss people in your life to do activities with or to talk with?
When we understand our own emotional needs, we are in a better position to find people who can meet them.
Next, Kory suggests that we broaden our perspective on the concepts of “affection” and “love.” He argues that we often ignore the small loving gestures that enter our lives. Don’t focus too much on hugs and kisses. Learn to recognize small complements and genuine smiles.
Appreciate small gifts and kind words as much as elaborate gestures.
Don’t forget that some people are more expressive than others. Just because someone doesn’t radiate affection doesn’t mean that they don’t value you.
Loneliness is Everyone’s Problem
For Kory, loneliness is a symptom of social isolation, not the cause. It reflects a lack of meaningful social connections at a fundamental level. While the impact of loneliness on individuals is significant, it is also a large social issue. When you feel lonely, you are less able to take part in productive work. In addition, loneliness has been linked to several health problems among older adults.
If you are feeling a bit lonely, my message to you is this – you are an amazing person and you deserve to have meaningful friendships. Loneliness is not a “normal” part of the aging process. Start small and focus on the things that you can control. Most of all – don’t give up. The world needs your special brand of uniqueness.
If you know someone who is suffering from loneliness, don’t sit by the sidelines. Has someone that you know recently lost their partner? Reach out. Do you have a lonely neighbor? Reach out. You have nothing to lose and friendship to gain by engaging with those around you.
Why do you think that so many of us are lonely when we have so many ways to communicate? Do you agree that we all have a responsibility to address the issue of loneliness in our communities? Why or why not? Please join the conversation and “like” and share this article.