There is a lot of truth to the old saying that necessity is the mother of invention. This is true, not just for inventions, but, for reinventions too! Sometimes what we need to get in the best shape of our lives is a wakeup call from our doctor that our current habits are killing us. Likewise, feeling lonely can be a catalyst for positive change. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Urban living can be exciting for older men and women but city living can also bring on feelings of isolation and loneliness. It’s true that in a city there is an infrastructure more suited to a less mobile lifestyle usually with a public transportation, parks, museums, and education and entertainment opportunities. But we all know that even in a crowd one can be lonely and so it is important to think about specific ways that an urban dweller can avoid isolation and make the most of living in a city.
One of the most important things that I learned from our survey on loneliness is that people who are dealing with loneliness are not starved for interaction – they are starved for intimacy. I don’t mean intimacy in a purely romantic or physical sense.
Many years ago, I had a good friend who had just gone through a very difficult loss and was overwhelmed with sadness. All I could do for the first few weeks was sit with her while she cried. Over time, she revealed the depth of her guilt and sadness and I realized that it was going to take her a long time to heal.
In a world that has become increasingly connected, you would think that it would be easy to fight loneliness. In reality, the opposite is true. Loneliness is still a big problem and it’s likely to get worse as more baby boomers reach retirement age.
One of the challenges when it comes to overcoming loneliness is that everyone’s idea of friendship is slightly different. In addition, each of us has a different level of comfort when it comes to social interaction.
Feeling lonely is difficult to talk about. At times, it feels like loneliness is not just a feeling, but, a reflection of our place in society. Maybe we feel like we should be able to “take control” or “just get out there and meet people.” That’s certainly what society would like us to believe. Or perhaps we feel like we are alone in our loneliness – that we are one of only a handful of lonely people.
As a society, we love to talk about what lonely people are doing wrong. Some of the advice that people give is productive and well-intentioned, but, today, I came across a quote that I absolutely disagree with. The quote was by Joseph F. Newton, who said “People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.”
People tend to think that overcoming loneliness is all about building connections with other people. As a result, most of the advice that you will hear when you tell someone that you are feeling lonely can be paraphrased as “what’s the problem? Just get out there and meet more people.”
I want to share a secret with you. Like many women over 60, I am dealing with loneliness. Some days I just feel a little isolated from the world. Other days — well, I don’t like to talk about those days. Let’s just say that there are times when the quiet corridors of my mind are dangerous places to wander.
As I walk, I see doors to little dusty rooms, holding sharp memories. Worse are the big brass doors that hold my fondest memories. These barriers stop me from spending too much time in the past, when every day was filled with my family, friends and laughter.