Social contact elevates the human spirit. Without it, people withdraw and don’t do as well. It’s particularly difficult for the elderly. Yet social isolation was demanded of us during the pandemic. One friend spent 14 months alone in her apartment without seeing a single person at her door.
Aging itself is often responsible for some loss of social contact. Friends die! They don’t mean to leave; they just have no choice. One single friend said she deliberately helps friends out, hoping she will be offered help when she needs it.
Poverty of Loneliness
The poverty of loneliness. It’s often suffered by the elderly who live alone or may no longer get around easily. This may lead to a lack of human touch – no hugs or handshakes, no faces smiling back. One time, I saw this issue dramatically addressed, of all things, by a group of teenagers.
An improv group I worked in was invited to perform a skit for high school students. We were to introduce the kids to the kinds of public service they might undertake as they entered the adult world.
The key character in our skit was an old man who lived alone. He got a phone call daily to be sure he was OK. The person calling this day was abrupt and business like, more anxious to get the calls over with, than to chat.
Then she realized that this call was the only contact he had each day, with the outside world. He was very lonely. Her call had made his day brighter ad more promising.
The skit had the desired impact on the teens. Inspired, several volunteered to make such calls. The only problem was, there was no such service. We made it up, for the purpose of our skit.
But the idea had gathered so much traction that the teenagers wound up creating such a group. Young people who called elderly folks daily, just to say hello.
These kids made a difference because the improv players hit on such a great idea to address the poverty of loneliness.
P.S. So how do you make new friends when you’re old? The basic truth is – it’s up to you to reach out. If that gets you out of your comfort zone, that’s OK. It will be worth the effort, even if you have to try more than once. Like card games? Seek a card club. Don’t know that game? Learn it. Check out organizations and clubs. Volunteer at a thrift shop. Attend a senior center or volunteer at one. Think service and watch new social interaction blossom into friendship.