Did you know that according to Canadian Statistics, as many as 1.4 million older Canadians report feeling lonely? That’s an unbelievably large and sad number.
Loneliness can create and exacerbate feelings of depression, lower your immune system, increase hypertension issues and in extreme cases, can even lead to death.
If you are a person with no family to speak of, if you live alone, if most of your friends are coupled, you will spend an inordinate amount of time by yourself. Everything you do is mostly done by yourself for yourself. It can be tedious and I’m almost certain it leads some to do things that none of us should be doing – home repair type activities, ladders, et cetera.
Personally, I live with a fur-person. I like having a pet in my environment. She loves me unconditionally and doesn’t mind my quirky ways. She even agrees with my political views! She makes me go out and walk because if I don’t, the guilt I feel is horrible. So out we go, Chloe and I, and walk eight or ten blocks, or when the weather is cooperative and the ground is dry, we’re off to the dog park.
So having someone else in your environment does motivate you to do a few more things. There’s someone there to say they love you, to hug you, or to help you deal with whatever annoying situation may occur in your life. It makes a difference to have someone to bring you tea when you have the flu or a cold or even if you are just having one of those days where you feel low. Chloe hasn’t quite mastered that yet, but her cute face looking at me expectantly does garner the warm fuzzies in my soul.
Unfortunately, I think a lot of people look for and become involved in relationships with loneliness as the motivator. A lot of people also stay in unhappy relationships rather than live alone. There may be financial reasons involved too – which is never a good measure of staying or leaving.
For those who can, volunteering is always an option. There are a lot of wonderful organizations who are always looking for volunteers. You can become as hands-on with your volunteering as you choose. The Family Resource Centre at The People Place is a good place to call, or The Schubert Centre, the hospital requires volunteers, as well as many other places. There are courses you can take to keep your mind active – either online or at various places in Vernon.
If you do volunteer, make sure it is something you have an interest in. At the moment, I am volunteering at the Powerhouse Theatre and I have a feeling it is going to be a fun and happy association.
Combating loneliness does require some effort. So, if this applies to you, consider your situation, look at ways you can become involved (even by phone), make arrangements with friends to go out for coffee, go for a walk (short ones are better than none).
Say “hi” if you are out and about to those you know, share your smile with others and pass on the good feelings. I’ll say “hi” back if I see you.
Carole Fawcett is a freelance writer/editor www.wordaffair.com.