Elder Job Search: What Should Be Versus Reality
INTERESTING STUFF – 3 February 2018

The Question of a Loneliness Epidemic

Just last week, British Prime Minister Theresa May created a new government position: Minister for Loneliness.

According to a 2017 report, more than 9 million people in Britain often or always feel lonely. May, quoted in The New York Times, said in announcing the new ministry,

“For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life.”

“I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones — people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.”

(More about how the Ministry will tackle the problem is reported at gov.uk.)

It's not just a British problem. According to a U.S. study of 218 studies, loneliness is not only a social problem, it is harmful to our health:

"They discovered that lonely people had a 50 per cent increased risk of early death, compared to those with good social connections. In contrast, obesity raises the chance of dying before the age of 70 by around 30 per cent,” as reported in The Telegraph.

As the American Psychological Association [APA] reported on the same study:

”Approximately 42.6 million adults over age 45 in the United States are estimated to be suffering from chronic loneliness, according to AARP’s Loneliness Study...

“'These trends suggest that Americans are becoming less socially connected and experiencing more loneliness,' said [researcher Julianne] Holt-Lunstad.”

I do not doubt for a moment that there are millions of old people who are lonely but I think there is something else at work on this topic that the researchers won't understand until they are old: that many old people voluntarily withdraw from social life to greater or smaller degrees as the years pile up.

I can't prove that and I haven't seen a single study that addresses it, let alone agrees. But a growing body of anecdotal evidence, just in my own small circle, seem to indicate something the loneliness researchers don't know.

A reader named Albert Williams left this note on a TGB post about making friends in old age. It's a bit lengthy but worth it:

”Whew! I'm glad I found this site,” wrote Williams. “I was beginning to think that I was the only person with such problems, and that, perhaps, there was something wrong with me.

“However, after a bit of introspection, I realize that this is not completely true. (Completely? Try old, ugly, curmudgeonly, short-tempered, cynical, and a few more applicable adjectives...)

“Time has, indeed, taken its toll. I am now an old man. Most of my life-long friends are gone. I've never had any kids; I've outlived two wives; and almost all of my family on both sides have already died.

“I find it very easy to make new acquaintances, but these seem to never develop into the deep, trusting, abiding friendships I had when I was young. Loneliness, apparently, has become a permanent part of my remaining days, and my best friends nowadays are my dogs and my computer.”

In addition, a long-time internet/blog friend, Cowtown Patty, recently wrote in an email:

”Found that as I age, while I enjoy people to a degree, I am happier when I am at our 'farm' out puttering in the 'garden' or in the house somewhere alone. Even Kent, who is the easiest person in the world to get along with, can be an irritating intruder sometimes.

“Do you think we 'cocoon' as we age? Protection? Preparing? Insulating ourselves from a world grown too noisy?”

That may be true for me. Although I have always seemed to need a lot more alone time that many people I know, in recent years I've purposely chosen fewer social engagements in exhange for time alone (reduced energy may be a contibutor too).

It's not that I don't like people or don't enjoy time with them. I do. But as I follow my innate nature these days, I am eager for less of that than during most of my adult life and as far as I can tell, the biggest change that would bear upon the desire for fewer social engagements is that I've grown older.

Which doesn't sound too far off from Patty's “cocooning” idea – perhaps even subconsciously, we begin separating ourselves from a world we know we will be leaving much sooner than people who are younger than we are.

There is an interesting entry at the Wikipedia Old Age page on this subject (emphasis added):

”Johnson and Barer did a pioneering study of Life Beyond 85 Years by interviews over a six-year period. In talking with 85+ year olds, they found some popular conceptions about old age to be erroneous.

“Such erroneous conceptions include (1) people in old age have at least one family member for support, (2) old age well-being requires social activity, and (3) 'successful adaptation' to age-related changes demands a continuity of self-concept.

“In their interviews, Johnson and Barer found that 24% of the 85+ had no face-to-face family relationships; many have outlived their families. Second, that contrary to popular notions, the interviews revealed that the reduced activity and socializing of the over 85s does not harm their well-being; they 'welcome increased detachment.

The researchers spoke only with people 85 and older. I strongly suspect that if they talked with 60- and 70-somethings, the trend would be there already.

Certainly there are millions of old people yearning to make connections with others who are having trouble doing that.

But as with all things related to elders, I don't believe you can bundle all of us into one handy explanation for any issue and it could be that what looks like loneliness to younger researchers is a personal choice some elders make.

What do you think?


Comments

My very closest friend ever died 5 years ago. For a while I felt like I needed to find another close friend and as said friend never materialized, I began to wonder if it were something about me that makes people not want to draw close to me.

I am very introverted and to others can appear standoffish. What is my reserve can look like lack of interest. But when I am truly honest with myself, it isn’t longing for another close friend that I felt and sometimes still feel. That longing is me missing her.

These days I find my time with a small group that meets monthly precious and enough. I have casual friends/acquaintances that I enjoy when I encounter them. But my time with myself and my husband is what I most love - being able to read, write, just be is deeply fulfilling. My inner life is rich and I enjoy exploring it.

Am I lonely? Not really though I wish Pauline were still alive so I could call her and share your post with her.

Oh my, I was so afraid that this was going to be a post about how to go out and make friends because it’s good for you. I should have known that you wouldn’t do that to us. Anyway, I have always wanted to run away from crowds. As I’ve gotten older, the size of the group that constitutes a crowd that I want to run away from has shrunk considerably. I enjoy lunch out with a small group of friends occasionally. I am 70 and my husband is 71. Today we are going to the Museum of Fine Arts and then have lunch in a little cafe that we have been going to for almost 50 years. That’s a good sociability day for me. I have cats at home to keep me company. I have Internet blogging friends. But I just don’t want to feel obligated to go anywhere and be sociable.

I truly agree, Ronnie. My time alone enriches my time with friends immensely. At times I long to cocoon, the rest in a book, with my dog by my side, to walk or hike in the nearby hills only hearing the sound of nature around me. These moments are precious. Perhaps it's the attitude one brings to solitude, as I think so many are fearful of being alone, it is colored with a feeling of deficiency. For me it is a luxury. The friends I do have are one's that I can be myself with, who I am interested in and them with me. I'm still working, owning my own business, and this provides me with the impetus for continually learning in my area of expertise, which I also have tremendous energy for. We all find our life-enhancing balance.

I was lonely when I was a child. I was lonely in my one marriage. Now, at 78, and for the last 5 or so years, I have loved my solitude. I'm happy to see this blog. Sometimes I have actually sneered at AARP ads or articles that stress the need for socializing with pictures of "senior citizens" laughing together.

Judy

Like Cheryl and Florence, I am not lonely; however, like them, I still have a husband. In our case, my husband and I spend the vast majority of our time at home - but not in one another's paths. We don't even eat our meals together! (He just returned from a 3-day, out-of-state meeting that I urged him to attend without me. I wanted some alone time.) However, it is always nice knowing that a spouse is there for us. I am thankful to still have my husband!

OTOH: My closest friend (of nearly 60 years' standing) is horribly lonely and has been since her husband's demise 20 years ago. Her sons live in the area and one of them, heeding his father's last advice, has taken it upon him (and his wife's) self to "take care of his mother". It just is not enough for her. She loves being around other people. Her loneliness drove her to, a couple of years ago, sell her home and move into an "active senior" community apartment - which, to her dismay, was even worse than living alone in her home. After six months in the senior community, she moved back to a "general population" apartment within a couple of miles of the house that she had sold. Even with nearby, actively-engaged family, she is lonely.

I think that our young selves have proclivities, concerning being alone or being in crowds, that only deepen with age. Of course two data points (my friend who has always felt lonely and I who have never felt lonely - even when my husband and I were apart for 15 years) allow me to draw any curve I wish.

Your article reminded me of the theory of Gerotranscendence proposed by Lars Tornstam (1989). Tornstam is a Swedish sociologist who proposes Gerotranscendence as positive developmental stage in older people. He suggests that paradigms of generativity; created by middle-aged people that pigeon hole elders due to a negative bias.
Here is an extract from a recent review I found:

"He suggests that people continually develop new ways of viewing and experiencing their world, especially as they live into their senior years. Far from being in decline, regardless of
physical limitations, they keep developing new perspectives that shape their very essence as individuals. It could be said that we fundamentally redefine ourselves as we grow older. And, importantly, that new sense of self probably doesn't fit the popular profile of “successful ageing.” Nonetheless, elders experience a positive quality of life that transcends ordinary boundaries."....."What happens, then, to those elders experiencing a greater need for solitude? What judgements are placed upon those who intentionally seek to tighten their social circle, not expand it? From an activity perspective, the elder might be flagged as withdrawn, isolated, and possibly even depressed. But from the perspective of Gerotranscendence theory, those are healthy indicators of maturity."

A quick Google search will come up with the original article and a plethora research since then. All very interesting and refreshing. I hope you find it as interesting as I do.

Divorce at 69 left me without someone who also enjoys going to art museums, galleries, dance concerts and the like. I miss that. I've had large chunks of solitude since childhood, so perhaps loneliness is a smaller issue for me than many. The idea of elders withdrawing resonates with my behavior over the last few years. Though I truly love most people, every interaction and conversation is an energy event, and lately, I find I must budget my energy. Even having fun can leave me exhausted.
Are we too afraid of loneliness? Right now I am surrounded by a good house with fields, woods, and gardens outside, much in which to delight. If I were confined, I feel sure my level of loneliness would rise. Like the word "old," the word "lonely" needs to be spoken aloud. The other person will be glad to hear that it's not just them.

I think there is a big difference between how introverts and extroverts age and the studies do not seem to reflect this, the former needing time alone and being comfortable with it, the later, time with others becomes most crucial There are also those that walk both sides of the fence. I think I am an extroverted introvert, the best of both worlds and being social and having solitude are equally valuable.

As I have aged I don't see changes in the number of friendships, although I am losing some to age and illnesses, the closest deepest friends can be counted on one hand and then there is the myriad of acquaintances or just people who have walked down the road of life with me. I still need both.

Before I have anything social happen in my day, though, is time spent alone. Time with my dogs, walking, thinking, enjoying nature. Alone time at it's best with a dog by one's side. Or, closing out the day with a good book. This keeps me balanced.

Good article, thank you, as always, Ronnie,

Karin

I love this quote:

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” —Anne Lamott

The same "unplug" for me can include a self-imposed (and much enjoyed) disconnect from my workaday world. I cannot say how I would feel living totally alone without a spouse; my husband and I are best friends. We've realized how fast time can remove possibilities, and we try to get outdoors (somewhere it is less populated and nature is the main attraction) as often as we can.

I am growing fond of my new-found ability to cut loose from societal demands when I can manage it. I think, Ronni, this is a subject (elders that prefer more isolation than less) which requires much more in-depth study. Maybe a recurring post at TGB?

As you've always preached, the aging process is a variable thing. Everyone approaches it from a different place and time. It is as individual as we each are.

Perhaps it's all in the way people perceive such change; a lack of daily social stimulation MIGHT prove to be a killer recipe for loneliness, OR it might just instead be the ticket for inner tranquility. Balance is key, and it is a very subjective one. One person's gregarious lifestyle is another one's misery.

Fascinating and thought provoking. I've always needed solitude and I love being with family and friends, but, like you, I think my desire for solitude is growing--not quickly, not demandingly, but gently and ineluctably.

We're fortunate to have lovely family close by. And we also pleased that they manage to find time periodically to spend with us. They are very busy, and that's good too. But I am 72, and find 'as time goes by' 😉, I enjoy my own company more and more. We had a family breakfast recently, and while we love to see everyone, we were also, dare I say, relieved when they are gone. We are not lonely, but sometimes we choose to be alone.

I have observed, in watching people who are older than myself, that “cocooning” and depression are close siblings.

This can be on timing and perspective for that certain day or week. Loneliness can be of choice and time. And it does depend on people that had been in the persons life before they lost friends through moving, death, loss of interests and whatever. I think there is much more because of the people today holding technology in the palm of their hands. Plus the disrespect and lack of enjoyment that younger people have towards the seniors and others older then they are. In years before we were more interactive with older folks and they were a fountain of advice for us. So mingling with with seniors was part of our experiences we did not exclude like today. We category age today. I find that keeping up with younger ages and not thinking we can't learn more is some ways to keep from loneliness. My second husband is younger then me by 24 years and being a musician, biker, active person with his age group friends I never was considered older to them. This definitely helped in me not being lonely. But I did find being separated from people in my age group was a contribution to loneliness sometimes because of like interests. I could continue on with a longer essay on this subject but enough for today. Just some thoughts and feedback .

For about 30 years I lived alone and loved it. Then my daughter moved in. She works full-time so I didn't have much time with her. She had to catch up on things when at home. Nevertheless, it was another body under my roof who would be available when asked.
Last week she moved out to live with her daughter who recently moved out and needed her more then I did.

Although My daughter is only 10 minutes away, it is not the same. I am afraid that I will be lonely this time.

There are so many factors not addressed in these "surveys" and research. For instance: financial stability. Particularly the financial ability to go out and about to visit museums, libraries, art galleries which often have clubs or trips associated with them.

Being single or partnered has a huge bearing on this as well. Being a senior woman on limited means, ditto.

I grew up as eldest in a small noisy house, surrounded by younger brothers. I would regularly lock myself in the one bathroom to read, to think, to write.

I've always cherished space, vast space, to be by myself and have called myself a gregarious loner for years. I'm excellent socially, am interesting and interested, but I love to crawl (cocoon) by myself for days on end, cherishing silence.

I also think our childhoods have huge bearing on how we are as elders, free from child-raising and finally alone.

I remember asking an old woman (90+) one time why she could never be alone, she literally paid young ones to sleep in her house when her adult children were away, and she said "m'dear I was born lonely."

I know for sure that even as a small child I felt crowded, suffocated.

XO
WWW

Thoughtful post. I think it's only some people who get quite lonely as they age but then I have always needed a lot of solitude to recharge. I live alone but I do have company or get out few times a week. Perhaps if I had no one at all I'd see it differently but I don't think so.

My feelings that I needed more time for myself actually began when I was still working, in my fifties. I still feel that pull, even though my time is mostly mine to use as I see fit. I seem to need a break from the few demands on my time every so often.

I often feel guilty about feeling this way. So it is good for me to read that others feel the same. For many years I put on a cheerful, accommodating persona every work day. It was cumulative emotional exhaustion for me, I think. I still do this, by the way, in every social situation. Maybe old age is the time to shed pretense, and just be ourselves whether we need solitude or social stimulation.

I think there is a huge difference in wanting to be alone and being lonely. I've always enjoyed people; it was necessary in my work in public relations but on the personal side I've always been a loner. The reason, I think, is it's just the way I am. As for socializing now, at 76, I enjoy luch with a friend now and then. My husband and I go out rarely. By days end we just don't feel like getting gussied up to go. Yes, we still dress to go out to dinner though we're always over dressed where ever we go. Maybe it's because we'd rather just dine at home where we still make the effort to dress for dinner and actually eat in our own dining room. As my dear Mother always used to tell me, "It's a standard of living." We have ours and don't find it shared any more so we'd just rather be alone.

I've always been an introvert and much prefer being alone. I relish my solitude. At 74 I do sometimes worry about an accident or health emergency with no one else here, but my son and his family are only about 2 miles away. I view with absolute horror those commercials for retirement centers with rooms full of laughing people dressed to the nines. Exactly the sort of situation where I'm most uncomfortable. I don't even own clothes like that anymore. I dress strictly for comfort, mostly athletic clothes. Sweats and tees work just fine. I won't lie; I sometimes wish I had someone to go out to dinner with, or to a movie or sports event. I don't drive after dark and I don't like to do those things alone. But all in all, I'm quite content.

I've found in my reading and my own experience that many of us don't require a lot of social interaction. The work of old age is really about Letting Go, in whatever way that shows up for us. And, yes, it requires solitude. I'm troubled by the constant pushing people (of all ages) toward social interaction. The 'experts' have also pathologies introversion, so if we're introverts AND older they want us all in antidepressants.

My favorite psychologist, writer/researcher on aging is Lars Tornstram who gives us the theory of gerotranscendance - it gives us permission to acknowledge and engage our spiritual work, which is supported by solitude. Great topic Ronni, off to read all the comment!

To the TGB family:

Don't you love the comments here? Where else do you get such intelligent and interesting exchanges anymore? They are few and far between.

Thank you, Ronni, for building this community. No small feat.

Ronnie, the balanced thoughtfulness of your last few paragraphs is very important. I'm pushing 80 (like 5 months away) and have a more interesting social network than every before in my life, plus I have caring family members very nearby. I feel I've grown into a gregariousness that was missing in earlier years. This may be unusual or it may be more usual than the studies suggest.

We should not all be lumped in one basket. A vast number of social, cultural and personal factors are involved. I live on Cape Cod where over 13% of the population are over 65. I live in an over-55 apartment complex. I know some people are lonely, also curmudgeonly, probably depressed, but others are active and happy. I don't quite trust those younger researchers just as I don't quite trust the various medical studies that define what we need as we age. Thanks for writing a post that covers the subject from various aspects.

As I have "matured" and learned what gives me pleasure, comfort, joy, peace, etc., I realize I have less desire to tolerate the annoyances provided by so many people.

I do like people and meet new people easily. However, as the time remaining in my life diminishes, I more carefully choose how and with whom I want to spend that time. Increasingly, I choose to spend it alone and not unhappily so.

I have just been thinking about being lonely so this is timely. My son lives 19 hours’ drive & my daughter lives 8 so every once in a while I think I’m lonely, but not enough to ask my friends if they want to get together. If I’m asked to dinner at friends about half the time I’m hoping they will cancel. I think I’m just selfish and lazy. I want company when & how I want it-not to accommodate anyone else but once I get out I always have a good time. One of the comments mentioned gregarious loner. Love that one.

Just as all who wander are not lost, all who are alone are not lonely. At nearly 75 I have lots of activities that being me into pleasant and stimulating company. I fear I have too long a bucket list to retire to a hermitage
But I enjoy my alone time more than I did before. Cherish it even. Guess I've gotten to be pretty good company for myself!

What good comments! Thinking more and more of aging as a spiritual and psychological journey whose features are unknown to society; instead we are subjected to cliches. My mom, at 90, often describes staying at home alone and loving her house and her life and feeling extreme happiness. Are there just stages that we don't know about? At almost 70, I feel this withdrawal a bit as well--and not as an unhappy thing.

On another topic (maybe not up Ronni's alley), I wish there were more information about the actual reality of grandparenthood. I feel so sorry for those who have to raise their own grandchildren and feel guilty about feeling that I would not want to do the same (luckily, I don't have to). I also can't handle a very long babysitting commitment to grandkids (and my husband gets so tired, he just lies down in the middle of it all). I feel the grandparent relationship is all pretty Facebook pictures and AARP glossy pictures and no discussion of the reality and of feeling conflicted. I love my grandchildren, but find days and days of them tiring (and there's that desire for solitude), but society seems to expect something else.

After decades of working multiple jobs, going to school at night, and being civically engaged, my husband and I are so glad to be home. We have different interests, so we are often not together during the day and evening. I have cut back on the township meetings I attend and anyone who wants some guidance through the local bureaucratic maze knows they can reach me through email or FB. I am a FB admin on several local community and history pages which is all I need to keep up.

Finally I have time to indulge in the solitary interests I have had over the years. I practice the piano, just finished reorganizing my quilting stuff, am trying recipes that I had saved, and I am finally making a dent in my waiting-to-read book pile. Additionally, I am trying fiction writing and keeping up on my osteoporosis exercises.

At 78, like others who have commented, I still have my husband (married for 21 years) to fight with, love, sit in quietude, hike, walk, watch TV, and travel with. I know I'd feel lonely without him. We each have our own interests, however, and I am a practicing artist so need and spend enjoyable creative time by myself.

I am an introvert and have always needed alone time. Sometimes I feel guilty for the years when I was raising children and yearned for the day all would fly from the nest, and my parental responsibility would end. I grew up the second of 4 girls and escaped the dysfunction there through reading books, and school and school friends.

From a phone call yesterday I learned a former co-worker just died and was surprised because a group of us that have lunch together just saw her about six months ago. The woman who told me this asked her husband why we did not get to visit her at the end but he said that"she did not want anyone to see her like that". She was the kindest person and a role model for me as we worked together with mentally ill people. But perhaps she was merely in the state of "letting go" of worldly thoughts, and persons, and didn't need or want any distractions.

What a fascinating topic. I've enjoyed the comments and different "takes" on the topic. There seems to be a divide between "feeling lonely" and "being alone." Being alone is often by choice. Being lonely is a situation that the lonesome person would like to remedy. Each of us has a different degree of need for socializing, yes?

Introverts need quite a bit of alone time. Extroverts need more time with people. But we all need to feel that someone cares about us. There could be a matching service -- sort of like a computer dating service--that matches lonely people in close proximity so that they might find a caring friend to light their lives. Just a thought.

Me, while I still enjoy occasional intimate gatherings or events like walks with close friends, I now but avoid -- at all costs -- anything like cocktail parties. And I used to be a bit of a social butterfly. Now I'm much more of an unsocial butterfly content to quietly reflect on nature.

Oh, Bless you Sue G! My grandchildren are now college age, but I hated babysitting. Their mother had her own idea of how I should be has a grandparent, and I, who have a life, who, like all the other posters here, cherish, indeed require my s0litude broken by encounters with people I enjoy, did not fit it. She tried on more than one occasion to cram me into her image of grandmotherhood. Not a happy situation. I nevertheless adore my grandchildren, and I have enjoyed time with each one within limits. When they visit from California, it's all hands on deck--their aunt and uncle involved--a total family thing. THAT I have always enjoyed. I am, by the way, widowed--a long time--so babysitting was always a one woman ordeal.

Dear Ronni, I grew up out in the country. We didn't farm much--Dad was in construction--but we were 3 miles from town and from where all my friends lived. When I was about 8, I felt drawn daily to the creek that meandered through our farm, under the willows and others trees whose limbs overhung it.

Each summer day until I began to work at 16, I did my chores, packed a lunch, and walked down to the creek. There I'd read and dream and feel the cool water on my feet and listen to bird song and wind ruffling leaves. I felt totally complete.

That feeling has never left me: that somehow in and of myself there is a completeness. I find myself interesting. I find my thoughts freeing. I've had many friends and one soulmate. Now at 81, almost 82, many of them have died and many of them live in Minnesota whereas I am now in Missouri, closer to family.

We talk on the phone, but whole days go by when I am totally alone in the house and the phone is simply an instrument on the end table. A week will go by without my leaving the house except to do my daily walk.

And still, after all these years, I find a completeness in myself. A belief--something like Walt Whitman--that I encompass the earth and all humanity.

From this has come, perhaps surprisingly, a real belief in the Oneness of All Creation. That I in my one-story home here in Independence and you there writing your posting and all those who comment and all those whose hearts leap up at the wonder of life are One.

And so I think that many of us come to that as we age and we are content in our Oneness.
Peace.

This site is exactly the place I have been looking for! I found it one day a week or so ago on a day I was feeling lonely!
It is after 4PM and here I sit facing my mac in my nightgown and bare feet, eating a salad and enjoying your posts. I am and always have been a loner who often feels selfish and guilty for preferring my own company. So thanks for your words even if I can’t imagine how someone in their seventies feels old nor how someone with a partner feels basically alone.
I will be 84 next month. To be honest I find most human beings very tiring unless we meet on a superficial level. I think I always have but since I now have fewer days, months or years left why bother? I also know it is sad to see our friends go so don’t want to make new friends only to leave them without my wonderful company😱😀! Dogs are/were wonderful company as is the internet and Apple Music [you get the lyrics!-sing and dance] and few good friends. Not to mention money! I am not wealthy but I am more than comfortable and very pleased that I earned it all myself. Too independent I suppose but no regrets and I, for the most part, enjoy my life. Would I want to live it over again? - well now, that is a different question. Would you?

I think you're all said it all. There was a time when I was afraid I'd never have friends. Now I really don't want them. After living in other states for over 30 years we have returned "home." But it fooled us! It didn't stay the same -- and neither did we. The city is not easy to get around and many of the stores no longer exist. The food we remember with longing is no longer for sale (just try getting liver and onions!). The relatives we thought would welcome us visited once or twice and never again.

However, we found that we preferred not to engage ourselves with the petty quarrels of the relatives and to make our own decisions about everyday life and I don't think we're lonely. We enjoy reading, watching the news (well, maybe enjoy is not the right word) and discussing it all. We're getting better sleep. Food no longer tastes good so our weight is down.

If we want to do something, we do it. It is a freedom we never had before. It seems we were always having to do or go somewhere that someone else wanted to do or go.

Loneliness? I am not sure whether I feel more or less alone as the hours, weeks, years and even the minutes move through, but I know I feel different these days. Not differently—the process seems the same now as it did when I blew out the candles and everyone clapped—but incomplete like I need to stir up a new recipe, read a thin novel, take a walk—but not in the rain. A drizzle would do.

Great post and comments! As one who has always stood quietly but firmly on the introvert side of the room, loneliness hasn't been much of an issue in my post-20s lifetime so far. Of course, at 81 I'm very fortunate to still have my wonderful spouse (#3) of 40 years, who's also a committed introvert--more so at 88 than he was at 68. If something were to happen to him, quite frankly I would hope to follow him before long, but we have 3 very spoiled senior cats that must also be considered. (They are guaranteed care through enrollment in a pet guardian program should we become seriously disabled or die before they do.)

"Active" living communities with grinning groups of gregarious, healthy, attractive "older" folks (maybe in their early 60s), usually shown engaged in a variety of athletic endeavors, makes me want to gag--or laugh. That is SO not a scenario I would want for myself; that likely would be true even if I were somewhat gregarious, healthy and attractive.

Oh, I love my solitude - now more than ever. With time getting shorter I think you become more selective about who you share it with.

Thanks to all the TGB community for these comments. I learn from all of you and you all make me less lonely. I find Dee's feeling of "completeness" especially beautiful.

I am an introvert and have always relished my alone time. After many years of having to over exert myself in a world that relishes extroversion, I am finally able to enjoy my solitude without the need to please others.

Being true to myself and my nature is more important than worrying about what others think of me when I decline an invitation to a gathering. Small talk at these gatherings wear me out too much so why bother! If I have to go to something, I will limit the time I spend there. My enough is enough line is a lot shorter at this time in my life.

I am 62 years old and retired a few years ago. It took me until the end of this past year, to finally relax and enjoy the gift of days I am receiving at this time in my life without feeling guilty. I don't feel lonely, just at peace with myself.

I loved reading all the posts. Getting old is not for sissies as they say, there is nothing I like about the subject. How did I get this age so quickly?? I am involved with family, friends, church, journaling daily and knitting. I work for MOP's one day a week rocking babies. My love.
At 76 I decided to move back to my home in Oregon a year ago. Now looking back I am wondering if this was a good decision. Living in Az for 10 years close to one of daughters was good but I was missing very old friends and family. As friend tells me it is 'divided wishes'. I can't have both ways. All the planning for the move your expectations are a surprise when you arrive.

This column really hit home for me. My husband died four months ago leaving me alone in a city with no family nearby. It’s just my dog and me some days. We lived here for 15 years so I know a lot of people. I keep my week days full with activities but I need to be near family members. I feel as if my life has no future, only a past.

I agree that being alone doesn’t necessarily mean the person is experiencing loneliness. On the other hand, a person can have another or others in their life and yet feel lonely. Personally, I can see that in the past decade plus, since becoming a widow, that I have gradually decreased my social contact as my activity has also narrowed. I rarely reach out initiating contact with others I may have newly met as I once was more inclined to do, but I welcome and do respond if others make the effort. I no longer have any expectation of establishing new local close friends as others are gone. I do miss having a partner in the house to spontaneously engage in occasional conversation.

I wish family and BFs lived closer but I choose not to move from my home. I have no desire to live in a senior or retirement community though I’ve provided services in some very nice ones — different strokes for different folks. They require a degree of regulation, loss of independence I haven’t yet been willing to embrace even at the independent level. Health changes could alter my view.

I experienced acute loneliness for a time when young with a sudden change from city, to reduced living standards in a comparative isolated rural life. I gained an appreciation for nature, learned to value solitude — that happiness was of my own making, and how to entertain myself. Early life lessons likely have been beneficial.

Family and friends have certainly decreased in number primarily beginning when I was in my sixties. One such measure for me evidences in my yearly holiday greeting cards as a half dozen or so more weren’t heard from this past season. As in past years some may have ceased being able to respond for a variety of reasons.

There are so many ways to entertain ourselves now given technology, ways to interact with others, books to read, gardening, crafts.

Love the comments and different points of view. Like WWW, I too am a gregarious loner, have been for years (introvert) and have gradually whittled down the opportunities for socialising. Bliss is having no commitments on a given day, other than to OH who is now a semi-invalid, and if I don't get quiet time of solitude I feel physically sick. Like many posters have said, people can be draining and tiring and I get all "peopled out". At 77, I expect to become more of a hermit, being content with books and internet.

Well...I just read a sponsored-by-ASHA [American Senior Living Association] FB post regarding senior loneliness and the answer being assisted living. One older lady who responded that she was alone, but not lonely, wondered if she was normal. I replied that she certainly was normal and referred her to this post and the comments, I was flagged as spam and my comment removed.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the initial post and all the comments. Until the age of 98, my maternal grandmother lived in her own house. She had a large family, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, who visited, but once someone asked her if she was lonely and she said she had "memories" to keep her company. I always liked that.
At 78 years old, I also have children, grandchildren, and siblings and enjoy very much my time with them. However, divorced, I moved back to the house I was raised in (on a farm) and live with one of my sisters. It has been a challenge, getting used to each other's idiosyncrasies, and I relish the times when she leaves to spend a couple of days at her son's house, when I can just "do my own thing, when I want to..". I believe one can be lonely with people around, so just being alone in a living situation doesn't always mean one is lonely.
I think what can happen as you get older and one's long time friends and family pass away is that all those shared memories are no longer shared! Two good friends have passed and every once in a while, I read something that reminds me of an experience we shared and my initial reaction is to call or email!
In relation to social activities and good friends....Since moving back, I have become reacquainted with school friends (through church activities) and am also doing a yoga class for older women and after our class, we all have lunch together at a local café - we love our social interaction, but there is no move to meet in any other situation. The class and the lunch 2 x a week are enough.
One last thought (this has possibly been too long) - I DO not want to live in a senior center/assisted living/whatever....I do not like the idea of communal eating, getting together for card games...no, no, no!

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