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Senior Loneliness: Putting Down New Roots

Senior Loneliness: Putting Down New Roots

Greetings one and all…

It is a rainy and cool evening in Denver. The perfect time to relax, to reflect, and to ruminate on the lessons learned in recent weeks. The past month proved to be incredibly busy with programs, conferences, community meetings, and program creation. As a result, I had the opportunity to meet some amazing people along the way. One woman comes to mind this evening because her comments at a recent program touched my heart—and reinforced how we all long for deep, life-giving roots throughout life.

I met this woman when presenting a program at a long-term care (LTC) community. The community is one of the largest in the area with two thousand residents. As we chatted, she admitted that the recent transition from her home of 40 years to this new community is proving much harder than she ever imagined. Although there are countless opportunities to “do” things, she laments that she has no one to “be” with—family or close friends. Consequently, she feels lost, alone, and isolated. Without a life-giving sense of belonging, she feels adrift and disconnected from life. Sadly, her story is not unique. Loneliness is now recognized as a daunting challenge for elders nationwide—a challenge if not overcome reduces the quality of life for elders.

It’s ironic, eh? Feeling lonely in a crowd! However, loneliness is not a challenge reserved for elders. I encounter people of all ages at various community events and conferences. Regardless of age, I listen as people share their struggles to connect with sustaining, supportive, and caring individuals and communities. So many of us feel as if we are walking this journey of life alone at the times we need each other the most.

So, what’s to be done? How can we improve the journey? First, we must be as courageous as the woman at my program when feeling isolated—admit that we are lonely and then proactively seek to connect with other people. As a “new arrival” in a community, we long for a sense of belonging—to feel “at home” in our space and with our community. Just like the spring flowers in my garden, we must expend the effort to set new roots that will allow us to flourish where we stand. Roots that will ultimately provide us with a sense of “home”—a sense of belonging.  

Second, if we are currently well-rooted in our community, we have the opportunity (and perhaps the responsibility?) to create a welcoming and nurturing environment that literally and figuratively embraces “new arrivals.” We can invite people to set down roots—to become vital, vibrant, and beloved community members. Assuming a welcoming posture throughout life, we are a blessing to others and are ultimately blessed in the process.

Now I know that reaching out to others requires time, attention, and intention. Furthermore, we have to overcome our fear of rejection, right? Being vulnerable by opening our minds, hearts, and arms to others is a scary proposition. However, when we are courageous enough to be vulnerable, we empower others to be vulnerable as well. By so doing, we create the opportunity for heartfelt connections. Connections that generate the roots needed to solidify life-giving relationships. May we all be brave enough to be vulnerable with each other. May we reach out and connect. May we embrace each other and LIFE! By so doing, there is a high probability that isolation transforms into a deeply-rooted community. A good thing indeed.      

I look forward to the ongoing conversation. If you have specific questions or concerns related to your caregiving experience, I would love to hear from you. Until the next posting, I wish you and yours countless blessings…jane  

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