Colorado Senior Counseling Blog

by Dr. Karen Midyet

Aging Alone: Coping with Loneliness

Loneliness is a serious problem, especially among older adults. When you?ve outlived some of your closest loved ones, you miss the emotional support, friendship, and companionship that you once enjoyed on a daily basis.

You have endured a lot in your life. If loneliness is robbing you of your happiness today, it?s just one more thing you need to overcome.

While there?s no formula or procedure you can follow to beat loneliness, you want to take steps to create an atmosphere in which you can spend time enjoying the company of others.

You have to take action. Of course, like anything worthwhile, it?s going to take some effort. It?ll be worth it, though.

After all, what more important thing do you have to do with your time than find ways to enrich your life?

Keep up with family and friends

Reach out to your kids, or your kids? kids. Or your brother?s or sister?s kids. Or your cousins, regardless of how many times removed. Stay abreast of their activities and attend their school or social events if you can. Celebrate their accomplishments with them.

If you?re not internet savvy, see if you can find someone to help you use social media to find and connect with people you haven?t heard from in years. Probably any kid you know can help.

Or look through your latest high school class reunion mementos. Try to re-connect with those you grew up with. Sharing memories with people you remember from days gone by gives you a chance to refresh your memory. It?s heartening.

Go surfing

Once on the internet, you might enjoy just poking around. There are millions of interesting images to see, stories to enjoy, games to play, and groups to join. It really is a great source of entertainment and a way to keep current with news, friends, and family.

While it?s true that the internet is home to many clever crooks and scammers, don?t let that stop you. You can surf safely. There are many resources to guide you past the trouble spots.

Generally speaking, be very careful about providing any kind of personal information to anyone you meet on the internet.  This includes your full name, address, phone number, bank account numbers, social security number, etc.

Reach out to new friends

Making new connections in a world of busy, scheduled people can be hard for anyone. The best thing you can do is to make yourself available. When the opportunity to introduce yourself comes along, do it.

Ask new acquaintances something about themselves and share something about yourself. See if you have something in common that might warrant another meeting or a visit.

Maybe they play Cribbage or Scrabble (or whatever game you enjoy). Or they like to go fishing or mushroom hunting or bird watching. You never know.

Volunteer

Not only does volunteering put you in a position to meet people, you might find gratification in helping others in ways you might not have considered. Many organizations need volunteers.

Organizations like AARP, Senior Corps, and SCORE specialize in matching the skills sets of retired people to vacancies where they are needed.

How about a pet shelter? While of course bonding with humans is a great way to combat loneliness, for some people, bonding with animals can be every bit as effective.

Lots of animal shelters look for volunteers to do a variety of tasks, including ?desensitizing??which is touching and petting and bonding with a dog or a cat until it?s comfortable being touched.

Of course, one very real danger of volunteering at a pet shelter is that you?ll come home with a dog or a cat. There?s something therapeutic about a purring cat perched on your chest . . .