Tag Archives: Loneliness

On Loneliness

I’ve always associated loneliness with people who don’t have anyone. Older people. Those whose spouse has died or who live alone without any real friends or family for support. That can be a difficult and depressing way to get through each day.

But I read an article recently which surprised me a bit. It said that loneliness peaks at three key ages in our lives. According to their research, people reported feeling moderate to severe loneliness in the late 20’s, mid 50’s and late 80’s. The 80’s didn’t surprise me but the other two age groups did to varying degrees.
The article explained that loneliness doesn’t mean being alone, nor does it mean not having friends. Loneliness is defined as “subjective distress, ” or the discrepancy between the social relationships you want and the social relationships you have.

I never thought of loneliness that way.

Apparently, people in the late 20’s feel a sense of stress or guilt about their life paths and how it measures up against their peers. This added stress increases feelings of loneliness or isolation.
People in their mid-50’s sometimes go through a mid-life crisis. Health sometimes becomes an issue, friends may have died and you realize that your life span is not forever.
The 80’s is where I always felt loneliness manifests itself more. Sometimes the older you get the more alone or detached you become and it never seems to get any better.

There were two other things about the report that surprised me. The first is that the reduced life span linked to loneliness, is similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The other is that there is an inverse association between loneliness and wisdom. People who have high levels of wisdom don’t feel lonely and vice versa. Wisdom should not be confused with intelligence. More times than not, they are mutually exclusive.

I don’t know if it’s always been this way or if it’s a reflection of todays society, but while we all know people who we believe are lonely, there are many more who are having difficulty dealing with life. People we see each day.

The holidays are a happy time of year for many of us. We get together with family and friends to celebrate love and share our lives in a meaningful way. But there are many who will be alone, either physically or emotionally. If we can help one person this holiday season with a phone call or visit, maybe that will extend into the new year and beyond. Then maybe another.

For all in life that is beyond our control, this is something we can affect. One hand at a time.

I pray you all have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday and healthy New Year.

 

Loneliness

There was a sad, yet heartwarming story that came out of Rome yesterday. Police responded to a call after someone reported crying and shouting coming from an apartment. When police arrived they were met by a couple, Jole who is 84 and her husband Michele who is 94. They have been married for 70 years.
The couple was not upset because a crime had been committed, but because they were overcome by loneliness and the depressing news they had been watching on television. Apparently they had not been visited by anyone in a while since much of the city empties out during the summer months and neighbors were on holiday.
In an attempt to make them feel better, the police stayed with them, cooked them a simple spaghetti meal and spent the evening listening to stories of their lives.

160809103827-rome-police-italian-couple-2-exlarge-169

Loneliness affects millions of people, especially the elderly who are homebound and unable to participate in society the way they once did. A recent study claims that while only 18% of the elderly live alone, 43% felt lonely. That’s a difficult statistic to read.
Whether someone has lost a spouse or has grown old together, the way this Italian couple has, advanced age can take a toll on your life, even if you are relatively healthy. We all know people in the 80’s and 90’s who remain very active but the majority of those who have lived that long have lost most, if not all of their friends, and what remains is a time in their lives that most people don’t remember.

While age alone does not corner the market on loneliness, there is an isolation for many older people which doesn’t offer them an opportunity to alter their lives. Phone calls and visits certainly help but much of their day involves little or no human contact. The difficult truth or realization for many is that life has moved on without them. They are no longer part of a working society, have given up their cars, and rarely leave their homes except for medical visits. The independence of living alone that many elderly people prefer to have, comes with a cost that most of us can’t imagine or prefer not to think about. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. What they know and see is confined to the walls of the rooms that surround them and like this couple in Italy, those walls seem to get closer each day.

We celebrate age with parties and photos in the newspapers of people who have turned 90 or 100 and it is quite an accomplishment. The experts tell us that advances in the field of medicine will allow people to live longer. But there is a difference between living and being alive. All of these people were alive once. They lived active and full lives; had families, jobs, hobbies, and were most likely surrounded by people on a daily basis. I don’t think they ever thought about loneliness.

We all know people like Jole and Michele. Sometimes we see them out somewhere or sitting on a porch or at a window, watching life go by as we pass. Sometimes a wave turns into a smile, sometimes a smile into voice.

At the end of the day, we all need to believe that our lives have a voice.