The most prevalent and serious issue of concern with elderly people today is that a large number of them suffer from a Feeling of Loneliness for some reason or the other. Many studies conclude that loneliness is not necessarily a part of ageing process; but there is a growing body of evidence suggests that the tendency of loneliness increases with onset of age. There are many contributing factors like loss of esteem, lessening of quality social relationships, falling health, growing financial insecurity, among others. Loss of the partner and fear of death are the other two reasons aggravating the problem.
If not taken care of at the initial stage, this can lead to serious clinical depression and allied mental health problems.
The Governments and social structure can only create a conducive environment to take care of this issue at an external level: like create more geriatric departments at hospitals or trained counsellors or senior citizen communities.
This, however, may not necessarily solve the problem as elders suffering from loneliness syndrome refuse to accept as such and decline to open up or join communities. The solution thus, to a large extent, depends on how the elderly people take care of their own destiny.
Some tips towards not falling into loneliness trap:
Early symptoms must be detected. These include not feeling well at anything, not wanting to do anything and trying to be away from friends & relatives; day seems unduly long. This is the time when the elderly person must wake up to reality and start taking corrective steps. The objective is to make life interesting and blissful.
Some tips in this regard include:
1. Making a daily diary as to how time should be passed qualitatively excluding sleep and other routine activities. The diary should be exhaustive and divide the time between serious work and fun time. Serious work may include reading or singing (if one can), cooking or developing a new hobby like learning a language or skill like photography or painting or drawing, etc. Fun time is enjoyment time like seeing TV, listening to music, seeing children play outside the house, amidst many others. The total period allocated for the above put together may roughly be 5 to 6 hours 3 to 4 days a week, if health permits. This will facilitate smooth flow of time.
2. Sometime should be spent exercising / meditation and keeping fit. A regular exercise/meditation of 30 to 40 minutes or so per day for say, 4 to 5 days a week is the key to keep body and mind agile.
3. It is always good to be part of an active and engaging community. Spending even 1 to 2 hours per week in a group of like-minded people will make one feel comfortable and take away lots of worries associated with loneliness. Joining a walking club or laughter club can also be experimented.
4. Staying with children is good; it allows one to spend quality time with children and / or grandchildren, at least during weekends. But one can also explore possibility of staying at a good old age home. Besides staying in the same age community, it also helps to spend time qualitatively as one is not required to take care of mundane activities like cooking or cleaning, etc.
5. It is always good to connect with early childhood / school / college alumni friends and talk to them for some time occasionally. This will revive the childhood fun filled memories and make you feel good.
6. It is preferred to spend some time with younger people. The more time one spends with younger people, younger one becomes in the mind horizon.
7. Whatever one does, thoughts will go on coming every day and many of them will be negative ones. One should try to overpower the negative thoughts with positive ones. Being in a serene environment including nature or temples will help.
In conclusion, it is to be remembered that “Loneliness” is a matter of attitude and therefore, every elderly person has to devise his / her own strategy to overcome it. Strength of mind to overcome loneliness feeling is extremely crucial.
- Dr A K Sen Gupta, Co-Founder and Chief Trustee of My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF). He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 9821128103.