The U.S. Surgeon General released an advisory today calling attention to the public health crisis of loneliness, isolation, and lack of connection. The report cites half of adults experience loneliness daily increasing the risk for premature death on par with the same levels as smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes daily.
The news reminded me of a nice Atlanta couple on tour the other day. They were well dressed, around 70 and, apparently, happily married. As often happens on tours we got into conversations I never anticipated.
They had been in Atlanta for over a quarter of a century working and raising their family. Today the kids are grown and far-flung and they find themselves without a support network.
I mentioned it is hard when working and raising kids to meet others unless you are active in a church and they weren’t so they’ve no ties keeping them to Atlanta. They considered returning to their hometowns but have been gone so long now they don’t know folks there anymore either.
It reminded me of my sister-in-law that retired for a week. That was all it took for her to realize she had no interests outside her children so had no friends despite a lifetime in the same town. A week was all it took to get her to go back to her old job.
I’ve a 95 year Swiss pal that moved here to San Miguel de Allende permanently following a stroke feeling folks from the Unitarian church and Rotary would keep him mentally engaged with visits. It was sad for me to watch him realize that unless you are making sizable donations, foreigner run organizations don’t have much interest in you.
An 85 year old pal met me for lunch after the Atlanta couple’s tour to bounce the idea of hiring a companion off me. She misses having someone to have a cocktail or dinner with, or simply ask daily how one is.
I get the appeal, but like with my Swiss pal’s support staff, having someone in the home means opening yourself up to the potential of theft which is a drag to say the least.
Then I ran into a pal who often hosted parties for the senior foreigner contingent. It is a decade later now and most of those folks are seriously ill as they teeter farther into their 80s and no longer leave their homes.
Or, like my sister, Kitty, now find themselves in an old folks’ home which is never a joy. Sure it is nice to no longer cook or clean, but spending every meal with folks that don’t know where or who they are is wearing.
It is different for Mexicans as they tend to live with family forever. If not, there is always church groups as being Catholic here is a lifestyle, not simply a religion. Plus, unlike up North, there is little switching around to other religions when a pastor or situation disagrees with you. Consequently it is common to know folks of various ages your entire life just from participating in processions and religious events.
It’s not like me to write about an issue without presenting a solution but I don’t really have one for growing old and lonely at the same time. I’m lucky, as a writer, to have a rich internal life so I’m quite comfy in my own company as I am with my family’s or buddies.
That and since childhood I’ve had an obsession with maintaining contact with folks I genuinely like so that helps. Plus I enjoy social media having eventually mastered the art of staying off certain sites and focusing on ones that provide joy and pleasant diversions. However, I understand social media isn’t for everyone.
I just finished watching a video on The Villages, the largest over 55 city in the world. With over 300 clubs, countless pools and golf courses plus with weekend concerts you can be very active in The Villages.
So active, doctors have named an STD strain that originated there among frisky seniors.
Perhaps life in a 55 plus town a good solution to the Senior Blues but, for me, I need folks of all ages around me and would wilt if only interacting with others of my age and interests all the time.