Are the elderly lonely or not?
A post I wrote last week cited a study that claims that people over 50 are most comfortable confiding in others, and they have people they trust to confide in. A UK study indicates that people over 65 begin to lose contact with others and feel increasingly lonely.
The study results indicate that 37.6% of seniors in the UK feel lonely, and 21.7% speak with three or fewer people each week.
The respondents state that a neighbor asking how their day is going or smiling at them and saying hello can make them feel less lonely and brighten their day. However, of those who are lonely, 37.6% don’t feel confident going out and interacting with other people.
You could look at these results as promising. They indicate that over 62% of seniors do not feel lonely, and if each of us reaches out to be kind to an elderly person, that number will improve.
Interestingly, young people, when presented with the results of the study, express an interest in being kinder and making connections with older neighbors. But many hold back and don’t reach out.
37% worry that the other person won’t respond well, and 25% say they’re too busy.
Now I’m older. I’m fortunate that I have family and friends close to me. I’m able to interact with people throughout my week.
I am guilty of avoiding, sometimes, even older people in the neighborhood because I’m in a rush and they like to talk.
Yet at other times I make it a point to give them whatever time they need and enter into a deep conversation with them.
I also try to instill in my daughter a respect in her elders and a curiosity about the stories that older people in the neighborhood can tell.
I think curiosity about stories it what it all comes down too.
Years ago, I worked as a barista at a coffee shop. Other staff were amazed at how much customers revealed to me as we spoke over the espresso machine. I told them that everyone has a story they’re dying to tell.
All you have to do is express an interest and ask them to tell it.
Now, as an older person with lots of stories, I have to be careful to not become a bore. I must still open up to others and ask about their stories, instead of just droning on with my own.
We move at an incredible fast pace today, and it’s difficult to stop and make a true connection with another person. But that connection can be so rewarding, and it can improve our mental health.
I think young people may feel a slide into loneliness even more acutely than older people. Whereas 38% of the elderly are actually lonely, 55% of those age 16-45 fear they will be lonely as they age.
Let’s hope that we all can continue to connect with each other, and that we can each go out of our way to simply smile and say hello.
It would be a shame if the expectations of younger people, much worse than the present reality we older people live, are realized.
It will be a shame if more people end up lonely.