I recently read an article by Senior Planet entitled “Aging Alone Doesn’t Have to Mean Lonely”. (Link Here). It brought up an important and often overlooked point: living alone does not necessarily mean one is lonely. According to a study from the University of California San Francisco, people aged 65 and under living alone are just as likely to be happy and healthy as people in committed relationships. Living alone is simply a lifestyle choice that many young people make.
However, the same study paints a different picture when it comes to people older than 65. In this demographic, feelings of loneliness are correlated to higher rates of physical and mental health problems.
Why the difference?
Maybe it’s because living alone as a 65+ is less a lifestyle choice and more something a senior is forced to do. Amidst the dramatic life changes that occur more and more frequently at an advanced age, it’s easy to find one’s self suddenly living alone and feeling lost or abandoned. Making the move to a retirement community is often not a ‘choice’, and there are few opportunities to truly alleviate your loneliness once within that environment.
The results of this study are not news to me, and I’ve been writing about the ‘loneliness epidemic’ since this blog began. What truly struck me about the Senior Planet article was the content in the ‘comments’ section. It is post after post of seniors sharing their own experience with loneliness. In many cases, the posts would end with a humble request for advice, or a request for some form of help. Often, an email address was left for the reader as an invitation to anyone willing to talk.
I am reminded that there are many sides to what loneliness looks like for any one person. There is likely no ‘one size fits all’ solution to this problem either.
At CircleTalk, our approach is high touch and high engagement through the stories of our lives. Showing who we are to others offers the possibility of real connection from the inside out. I look forward to innovating many options for making CircleTalk available on a wide scale. Atul Gawande from Being Mortal, (2014) expresses my wish for all of us, most eloquently:
“As people become aware of the finitude of their life, they do not ask for much. They do not seek more riches. They do not seek more power. They ask only to be permitted, insofar as possible, to keep shaping the story of their life in the world– to make choices, and sustain connections to others according to their own priorities.”
May it be so.
Don’t forget to check out the details for our upcoming CircleTalk Leader Certification Course!