“Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.” -Paul Tillich
I have been living alone for 11 months now. And the time to start this journey couldn’t have been more difficult. Living alone when you can just get up and leave the house and see other people, assuming you are mobile, isn’t that difficult. When you take away the ability to leave your apartment because of the covid Pandemic, it adds a whole extra dimension. Now you can’t go to library and sit with others and have a book discussion. The coffee shop and bars are off limits. The warm embraces of your church friends are missing. Living alone has risen to the forefront of everyone’s conscious as more and more people are doing it.
Us household composition shifts as population grows older. This graph is from an article by PRB.org and excerpted from an article by Mark Mather in the population bulletin entitled “what the 2020 Census will tell us about a changing America.”
As you would expect, the two groups within our population that have the biggest% of single-person households are the young at 28% and the over 65 at 42%. The young are most likely mobile. Mostly well connected and don’t suffer the potential negative effects of living alone. Although even they are tiring of the effects of the covid Pandemic. And some young suffer loneliness. The older group is not as cohesive.
Much of the over 65 are immobile, living in group homes that result in limited connectedness. I spent over a year in an assisted living environment while my wife was suffering from ALS. We were in our room or went to meals. There was little connectedness there, although the staff tried. The mobile portion can get out, absent covid, and seem to be more connected.
Staying mobile and connected is the key.
Staying connected during the covid pandemic is a challenge. But a challenge you can handle. Staying connected is up to you. It is no one else’s responsibility. It is a time to reconnect with old friends that you haven’t been in contact with recently. To stay connected, you need to do as many of the following as possible.
- Get a pet. The gives you something to take care of. It gives a purpose for each day. Pets can be cute and cuddly. They are like young kids, fun to be around, friendly, and a pain in the posterior.
2. Get outside and walk. Walking is one of the best exercises there is. It doesn’t require special equipment. Walking allows you to comply with all the guidelines for covid and helps keep you mobile. Of course, you can run or ride a bike if you prefer. Just get outside regularly.
3. Write and send letters to those you know. One of the big campaigns in our town was to gather and send Christmas cards to those living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
4. Stretch your mind. Take a course, learn something new. Read books. Learn how to connect on the internet. You can meet and talk to people around the world as easy as I can talk to my cat.
5. Learn to cook. This is big for me. Not only do I need to learn how to cook creatively. I have to learn how to cook for one, so I don’t have to eat the same dish every day for a week.
Be creative. Start a daily journal where you jot down ideas, feelings, things you are grateful for, etc. This will help get things out of your mind, so you don’t have to worry about them.
The cost of not staying Connected.
As Robert Heinlein stated in his book, “The moon is a harsh mistress”, there is no free lunch. Whatever you want or need, you must pay for. If you don’t stay connected, the cost can be high. Loneliness growing into physical and mental health issues. Studies by the National Institute of health have linked loneliness to increased risks of high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. On the mental health side, we get higher rates of depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s, and death. We have all heard the stories of the couple long married that die one after the other. The cost of not staying connected and mobile is higher than you think. GET CONNECTED and STAY CONNECTED!
“Never underestimate the empowering effect of human connection. All you need is that one person, who understands you completely, believes in you and makes you feel loved for what you are, to enable you – to unfold the miraculous YOU.”
― Drishti Bablani, Wordions