Ageing & Loneliness



“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty".
~~ Mother Teresa

"Too much self-centered attitude, you see, brings isolation. Result : loneliness, fear, anger. The extra self-centered attitude is the source of suffering".

~~ Dalai Lama

"The surest sign of age is loneliness".

~~ Annie Dillard

As society is changing, more and more people live alone. Many of us have grown children who have moved across the country or overseas. Once we leave the workplace, our social connections slowly dwindle and we find ourselves spending more and more time alone in front of the TV. For many of us, this happens gradually. We get a bit weaker and go out a bit less. It gets harder to get around; we don't want to drive after dark; we don't like to go out when it's hot or cold and so, we just stay home. We are no longer the hub of our families; our interactions with them become more infrequent and without meaningful conversation. We lose friends and loved ones to death. Thousands of us are lonely and cut off from society. It is hard and it almost seems like loneliness is inevitable but it is not.

Thirty-five million Americans are living beyond the age of 65, a 25 year increase in life expectancy since 1900. The longevity has been the destiny of many. In 2015, the average man could expect to live 18 years beyond age of 65; average woman had 21 years of life left after her 65th birthday. Almost a similar pattern in longevity is observed in developing countries like India. Loneliness will turn that 'gift of longevity' into a curse.

If we don't actively find ways to stay connected to our families and our communities, those extra years of life will be wasted in sadness and pain. One has to force oneself to go out, make new friends, find ways to stay in the game by volunteering or work for a place of worship. Grab every chance to smile at others or begin a conversation. Invite people who are home during the day for tea or coffee. Become a friendly home visitor to a senior just to chat. Recent studies have shown that sociability plays an important role in protecting us from psychological distress and physical disease. Besides, it enhances our well being.

There is a chance that modern medicine will keep us alive for many more years than we expected, but how we spend those years will determine if that extra longevity is a gift or a curse.
Dr. Tej K.Munshi, {Ex. Prof. in Applied Sciences},
Feedback at: tejmunshi@gmail.com
Comments
Excellent brief indeed. Without finding ways of being social and active, later in life, mental health is bound to deteriorate in spite of good physical health. Loneliness is a definite curse.
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