Recently, an uncle in my neighborhood passed away. He lived with his wife. Their four daughters are married and well settled. Uncle and aunt both in their eighties, lived in their house independently. After the death of that uncle, aunt is now all alone. Sick, old and lonely.
It brought to me the sad and the most harsh reality of life – loneliness in Old age. When we were children, we were always surrounded by our protective parents, caring siblings and loving grand parents. When we grew older, we had our bunch of friends to chat and hang out with. We got married and have our husband and children standing by our side. But what when we grow old? Our family members will not be with us, our children will be independently settled. What we will be left with would be ‘us’- old, sick and lonely.
When I look around, I see many old couples living by themselves. There are many elderly whose partners are no more. The elderly in such cases are often surrounded by loneliness. Even doctors are now recognizing loneliness as a disease and consider it more deadly than obesity.
Mother Teresa once said, “the biggest disease today is not leprosy or cancer or tuberculosis but rather the feeling of being unwanted and deserted by everybody.” Doctors have also quantified the effects of loneliness disease, warning that lonely people are more likely to die prematurely as against those who do not suffer the feeling of isolation. ( Source : amp.theguardian.com)
Loneliness impairs immune system and boosts inflammation. It can lead to arthritis, type 2 diabetes and heart diseases. It is a disease which is most rarely talked about.
So, how can we help our elderly from loneliness. Let’s help them reconnect. Years back, I had got fascinated with the idea that we should have daycare centers of children near to old age homes or places where elderly live alone. If we could have day-cares of children near the old age homes, it will have two way benefits – 1) the elderly will find the cheerful company of kids and will have something to look forward to. 2) children will be able to spend time with elders like their grandparents.
Another thing that we can do is to help the elderly reconnect. We can always take out time and visit them. Talk to them and make them feel important. Our love and respect is all that they ask for. Isn’t it? Help them reconnect and rebuild a social circle for them. Encourage them to meet and visit their friends and relatives. Plan a family gathering for them and let them be surrounded by their loved ones. Let them live once more, just the way they taught us when we were kids.