A recent study saying that loneliness and social isolation are a major health hazard is no surprise to millions of people who are alone and lonely. Not having the fundamental human experience of connectedness is painful and even dangerous, especially if you are older.
One of the most common misconceptions about loneliness is that it goes away as we add more people to our lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, many people that I know have 100’s of “friends” on Facebook. They may even live with someone else. But, they still feel lonely.
You imagine ahead to your traditional dinner: you know what you will be eating, you know who you will be celebrating with, you know where you will be – but suddenly your heart drops. This year there will be an empty chair round that table.
The holidays aren’t always a happy time – for some they’re reminders that they are lone, whether they’re widowed, divorced, separated or simply away from family and friends. Add grief to that and it’s even more difficult. Loneliness is painful.
The Internet is probably the greatest purveyor of communication since the printing press. Thanks to that brilliant invention, the world is now virtually connected with the click of a mouse.
We can be sailing along just fine – independent, self-contained, pursuing our own interests, plenty of friends, regular contact with family members, and then boom! – the holidays come upon us and we feel like our ship starts to sink.
According to the AARP, 51 percent of people over 75 live alone. That’s 15 million people in the U.S., including 27 percent over 65. Of those numbers, 26 percent face an increased risk of death due to subjective feeling of loneliness.
Most boomer women have a strong work ethic and derive a great sense of identity from their work. After all, many of us started working when we were 15 and have worked for 45 years, so when work ends, there is often a huge void in our lives. This leaves many of us looking for ways to avoid loneliness in retirement.
Caregivers are usually dependable, persistent, detailed, vigilant – and seemingly tireless. But not many people would characterize caregivers as lonely. Yet as a caregiver, I have experienced many periods of loneliness. Depending on your circumstances, you may feel the same way.
Being an aging single introvert, I find that I am now more confident in recognizing and stating my need to be alone. At the same time, when I’m in a social setting, I’m also more confident than I used to be – maybe because I have had the time to recharge my inner battery.