Loneliness – ‘the horror not to be surveyed’

Loneliness – ‘the horror not to be surveyed’

Loneliness leads to despair. It can be self-inflicted by people who don’t want to make the effort or who are too scared to walk into a group they don’t know. It can be caused by lack of money to travel to see others or to join groups that ask for payment. It can be the result of illness, physical or mental. It can be experienced just as much in a city full of people as on a bleak moor, miles from anyone. Loneliness can be both physical and mental.

The consequences of loneliness are increased sickness, greater self-doubt (why does nobody call me?) and eventually giving up altogether. People die of loneliness. Old people often don’t want to live in a geriatric home, preferring their independence and ability to choose what they eat and when and who they invite to be with them. If they have enough mobility and self-control, independence is good. But it can lead to loneliness even though it satisfies other aspects of life that they want to preserve.

We are all busy – too busy, often, to visit the old. No doubt we mean to, our intentions are good. But we forget that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Wait too long and all you can visit is a memorial plaque. And today all old people have phones and calling them for a chat for twenty minutes is not that difficult. What on earth to talk about, though? That’s the difficulty. We need to turn our thinking upside down and ask ourselves what they would like to talk about. Old memories are about the past, rather than too much about the present.

So our phone call should be planned to ask questions about matters that are happening today but that were developed, explored, initiated when they were young. For example, the advent of the driverless car is something they will become interested in if you ask them about the car population when they were children. Talk about driving an early car and a heap of memories will flood back to them. Their views of cars today and cars in the future will form as you ask them questions.

Seeking the wisdom of an older person is not difficult provided you set the context correctly.

What if they are no longer mentally very in touch or perhaps never were the brightest person on earth? They are still able to recall events, processes, behaviours from way back. It is easy to ask someone what interests them and the clues that will emerge can quickly be turned into questions. How can we measure the success of a call to an old person? By the amount of time they talk and the amount of time we talk. When we succeed in getting them to talk most they are happy and we are doing a great job. Our job then becomes listening.

Organisations like Lions Befrienders (www.lionsbefrienders.org.sg) do a magnificent job connecting with those who might otherwise become lonely. All that is required is time. Perhaps twenty minutes a week to talk to a golden oldie is not too much to ask.

And the reward in terms of joy brought to the older person and wisdom received by the caller is more than most people expect.

Call a Golden today and make one of those intentions come to life.