Leaving This World Alone (Loneliness among the Elderly)
James A. Froude said, “We enter the world alone, we leave the world alone.” There is no feeling more horrible than the loneliness one feels in the unsettling quiet of an empty house. For many elderly, it seems that aging accompanies loneliness as children leave and spouses pass on. Though many children devote years of their lives to care for their elderly parents, others abandon them to solitude.
A French article translates to read, “Elderly people who are deprived of the warmth of human contact are at the risk of turning inward. For the very old, an atmosphere such as this can become psychologically catastrophic and lead to depressive syndromes such as extreme sadness, a desire to do nothing, sleep problems and even dementia.”
It is easier to care for our parents when their health is deteriorating, but what about those who retain their health well into their fifties or sixties? Just as a teenager becomes preoccupied with high school social life and can often forget about the family dinner or activity, adults can become preoccupied with their jobs and families of their own and neglect their elderly parents.
Even if your parent is healthy, they may not remain so when subject to consistent loneliness. Ask yourself: How many times have I given my mother a call this past month? How often have I visited my parents this past year? How long did I stay? Long enough to have a real conversation, enjoy a dinner, or take a walk through the park?
On her blog, Judith Gelber spoke of her experience with loneliness in old age, “Among the side-effects of aging are loneliness and isolation. Friends and family die or move away. Whatever support system existed before seems in tatters. Life becomes a hard pill to swallow.”
The problem of loneliness in aging does not always fall on the children; sometimes the elderly bring loneliness upon themselves. “They’ve spent their lives looking after others as well as themselves. While they appreciate help, they still want to feel they are capable of taking care of themselves and running their own lives.” (Judith Gelber) Neighbors and others seeking to reach out are sometimes turned away for this very reason. The elderly have just as much right to keep their pride as the younger population does. Sometimes, though, the elderly can be a bit more stubborn. They’ve seen more of life, they’ve been more weathered by pains and hardships, and now they’re facing their last years alone.
Judith Gelber said, “The best help for the elderly is in the doing rather than the asking.” It’s true that some of the elderly may isolate themselves, but it does not mean that inside they are not reaching out for comfort and companionship. As Gelber said, many times actions do speak louder than words. If you are a nearby neighbor to an elderly person you could mow their lawn, shovel their walk, or bring over a warm, home-cooked meal. As a child you can simply pick up the phone and give your mother or father a call.
After everything so many of the elderly have contributed to our nation, our communities, and our families, we should give them the courtesy of friendship. There is no cure for loneliness but companionship and love. No one should have to leave this world alone.
Posted on March 20, 2012, in Elderly Emotions and tagged caring for a loved one, companionship, contacting your parents, death of a spouse, elderly parents, isolation, loneliness, loneliness among the elderly, parent-child relationship, sadness in aging, service to the elderly. Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.