Janey Says: We Must Do More to Combat Loneliness

As an indulged only child I spent much time alone.  My parents saw hard work as a requirement to maintain a comfortable lifestyle, and I was certainly a beneficiary of that.

lonely woman

When you don’t know any different, you’ve nothing to compare your life to really, and in my case I was acutely aware of my good fortune.  I instinctively knew it would be wrong to moan about any aspect of my life, as my parents –  being of the older generation –  were never going to do any  ‘helicopter parenting’ … too much involvement in my day to day goings on.

I’d have been told to remember how lucky I was and to go off and ride my pony.

 The figures are miserable, with many people of 75 only interacting with others weekly if they’re lucky.

That said, as I’ve aged I’ve become far more aware of the sadly common laments over the loneliness facing the elderly.

The figures are miserable, with many people of 75 only interacting with others weekly if they’re lucky.  Research has suggested that loneliness does as much harm to ones health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.

We put our elderly in homes – either their own, or a communal one.  Once done, providing they get a call or visit occasionally, well we consider them jolly lucky!  But most of these folk have grown up with others around them. Either coming from – or having had – large families, the change and necessary self-reliance at a time when they should be being cared about is tragic.

 ‘They’re lucky, they’ve got a TV and a warm home…they’ll be alright’.

Although I can’t imagine a life like this myself – I do wonder what I’d do, and how I’d cope if that were to become my fate.  My own upbringing made me independent, but I will admit that there were days when I yearned to hear jolly voices in a smaller house. I knew I’d grow and my life would change – but I do often wonder what it must be like on the other side.

I have huge respect for the families in cultures where the different generations live together, with the young taught from birth to respect their elders, and see them almost as guardians.

Maybe then, it IS respect!  Maybe thats what we are all lacking and what makes it so easy for us to turn a blind eye and get on with our own stuff in the certain knowledge that ‘ they’re lucky, they’ve got a TV and a warm home…they’ll be alright’.

The question is, what can any of us do to solve the problem of our older generations  solitary existence, other than to be more aware of it?

Maybe I don’t turn a blind eye and crack on with my busy day, but  perhaps chat to the old dear that I meet while walking Ted in the morning.  She’s so desperate to tell me about a similar dog she had before the war – and maybe I can not just listen for a bit before making my escape – but to actually interact…talk to her.

I also think it’s vital to remember that loneliness is not just a problem of the old.  So many young now are complaining of the same.  Isolation and lack of friends…parental involvement –  plays havoc with young minds too – all of them fertile – they haven’t the experience to see how to alter it, or that it is in fact normal some of the time.

I am lucky in that I do have the ear of many of the young who write to me to share their problems.  I always answer, but secretly think ‘why on earth do you need me’?

Where are your friends and family?  Maybe these days the young are just too ‘cool’ to admit a problem to a member of their peer group. Or too stuck online, losing the skills and desire to engage with the real world.

So maybe, rather like the lady with the dog, we should spend more time to actually interact with these kids.  If they think ‘oh I wish she’d bugger off and leave me alone’ well at least WE…us adults – know we’ve done our best;  but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they didn’t do that, but actually welcomed your interest with open arms, once they’d got over the embarrassment.

Give it a try…we don’t have to take on the world – just a little bit of it on our street. After all, we never know when we may be glad of a cheery wave and a moment of someone’s time ourselves.

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