A Pew Research study suggests that the older we get, the more likely it is that we’ll spend an increasing amount of our time alone. A March 19, 2019, Time Magazine article reported that one in three seniors are at greater risk for heart attacks, strokes, and depression because of loneliness. Not surprisingly, holidays can be particularly hard for seniors who feel isolated or are widowed.
One Widow’s Strategy for Countering Loneliness During HolidaysMy eighty-something neighbor, Sally, has been a widow for several years. Unlike some other people who struggle with holidays because of loneliness, my neighbor looks forward to every holiday in her own, unique way. Prior to Valentine’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, Halloween, Christmas, or other holidays, Sally heads to the Dollar Store and buys dog treats, kitty treats, and small bags of toys that she can divide into smaller packages. She also buys small toys for the few children that live in our neighborhood. When a holiday arrives, Sally travels around the neighborhood in her quiet electric car and leaves little gifts for the neighborhood pets and a few children too. She also leaves a little note that says the gift was from “Kitty Poo,” her cat. You can bet that every pet and child in the neighborhood knows Sally and Kitty Poo and recognizes their car when they see it. People in my community love Sally. We all watch after her in our own ways. She is part of the heart and soul of our neighborhood. Her unique way to express affection has endeared her to all of us. Sally and Kitty Poo may live alone, but they are never alone. Sally is never short of visits or invitations for meals.
Community Police Take Action to Help with LonelinessEven when it is not a holiday or special occasion, loneliness is a reality that many older adults face. It is not easy for some people to reach out and connect with others. But communities can find ways to encourage connections between those who want and desire simple conversation with others. For example, police in Avon and Somerset England created Chat Benches in a couple of parks with signs that read, “Sit here if you don’t mind someone stopping to say hello!” I’m thinking that my own community could do something similar at one of our local parks. Regular interactions with others may help us stay more mentally alert and able to care for ourselves. All of us benefit when everyone in our community feels connected and valued. What are some ways people in your neighborhood help create connections and a sense of community?