Do You Know a Lonely Senior?

January is a lonely month for many older persons in your neighbourhood and elsewhere else too. Following Christmas which is usually such an active, social time, especially with family, many seniors then often spend days and weeks without speaking to another person.

Imagine turning the television and the radio on, just that so you can hear someone else’s voice. Imagine… staring out of the window, looking at your neighbours getting on with their lives, reminiscing of a time when your life was full of everyday activities. Imagine… feeling deeply alone and isolated.(1)

In my work with Living Assistance Services, we match seniors and their own circumstances with trained personal support workers, who help them remain where they desperately want to stay–happy and safe in their home—and not lonely! And, I meet so many lonely seniors who need our help with not only daily living but also companionship to combat their loneliness. Do you know such a lonely senior?

Not so long ago, I met Janet, 82 years old, who had lived happily in her home in Richmond Hill for 35 years, including the last eight years after her Husband, Robert, had passed. But, Janet’s life had changed when she had to go to the hospital for a hip operation, such a common occurrence for the elderly these days. This operation for Janet had serious repercussions—physically and psychologically. She turned inward into herself and she spent two months in the hospital.

Finally, Janet was driven to her home by her family whose members lived some distance away. Mostly alone, she became depressed and started to experience anxiety attacks. She withdrew from life and doing the things she loved.Janet did not leave her home for weeks; she did not go out and meet her friends; and, she did not have a computer and had only the radio or the television to keep her marginally stimulated. Janet was terribly lonely.

”Sometimes loneliness is not a choice but a reality forced on us. Life changing events such a hip operation but also retirement, the death of a loved one, and the loss of independence resulting from poor health, all can affect our well-being physically and psychologically. With aging, we are more vulnerable to these events, leading us to withdraw from social situations further and thus to isolation” (2).

So, how do you help your lonely, loved one–anyone, in fact– in such a circumstance?