The Loneliness of Old Age

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Hear this discussion from our Longevity Explorers — circles of older adults who meet monthly to explore solutions to the challenges that come with aging.

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from: Longevity Explorers | Palo Alto

Discussion Summary

One of the goals of the founders of Avenidas Village was to provide a community that would combat the loneliness that older people living alone in their homes can experience. Members of the circle spoke strongly of the need to be very proactive in combating the loneliness that can arise from the loss of spouse and friends.

We must reach out to find new friends as old ones die, but how to get beyond mere acquaintance to a more satisfying friendship?

As context for our discussion, Chuck cited a recent issue of the Economist which has a feature article about loneliness as a world wide phenomenon, affecting not only the elderly, but people at all stages of life as communities break up and living situations atomize with economic change.

In the elderly key sources of isolation mentioned included the death of spouse and friends, children and grandchildren living far away, no longer being able to drive (mitigated now somewhat by Uber or Lyft); loss of health, vision, hearing.

 

Much practical advice was given:

Volunteer with an organization you care about to bring you in regular contact with like minded folk. Once you have a new friend put effort into sustaining the relationship.

Be open to trying new activities as former ones (maybe requiring more physical activity) are no longer possible.

Take the initiative, invite someone to join you at the movies, rather than sitting at home or going on your own. If recently widowed accept every invitation you receive.

In a group setting, be the one who questions rather than the one who talks all the time. Giving a compliment and asking people about a common interest will get a good conversation going.

Get a dog – you can bond with fellow dog owners at the dog park – and get exercise.

People who have had lifelong interests/hobbies outside of work and family are less likely to suffer loneliness in old age than those who did not have such interests.

 

Many groups were mentioned that foster community and a sense of involvement:

Fitness Class, Book Group, Hiking/Walking Group, Choir, Church, Poetry/Writing Club, Game Nights at the Library, various hobby groups, community dance groups.

The internet can foster relationships, for example through scheduling “Meetups” and by enabling you to keep in touch with people sharing common interests all over the world.

Relationships with younger people were recommended – one option is to serve as a mentor through alumni groups and profession associations to young adults starting their career.

 

 

 

 

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social isolation, loneliness

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