By: Walt Maclay | Posted: June 16, 2014 | Updated: April 16, 2023
In the last co-creation meeting one group focussed on the issues of seniors being isolated and lonely. This is one of the top problems for seniors. As we age we lose our spouse and our friends. We also lose the ability to drive and get around. This results in isolation and loneliness. Our group identified the following things.
Even those who are in care facilities can be lonely. My father spent three years in an assisted living center in which he ate with a regular group of men, and he was encouraged to participate in activites. Despite this he was very isolated and lonely. The men with whom he ate rarely spoke. This may be partly because making friends in assisted living meangs losing friends when they pass away.
When their situation changes, people may not be able to adapt. In my father’s case he lost his social secretary when my mother died. He had not practiced making friends for 63 years since he had married. He was unable or unwilling to learn to do so when he found himself isolated and lonely amidst a group of 50 seniors.
Parents don’t listen to their children, so their children are perhaps the least able to help their parents overcome isolation and loneliness. When they are older parents become like children in many ways. One of those ways is to not listen to their children. This is perhaps because their children become like parents, telling them where to live, taking away the keys to the car, and other things they don’t want to do.
One of the most powerful ways to overcome loneliness and isolation is to have a purpose. Seniors are put in places where everything is provided. Since they are less capable, we provide everything to make their lives easier. This removes their purpose. There is nothing they have to do or are expected to do. Having a purpose is a powerful drive in humans. Sonya Kim, who was in our group, has identified a way to bring back a purpose through her company. Her company hires people to call the elderly to overcome loneliness. One of the key parts of what they do is to involve them in something that gives them a purpose.
Another person in the group suggested pairing seniors with children, especially children in foster care. While helping a child the seniors get a strong purpose in life.
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