Have compassion for lonely elders – there are a lot, and they need your help
by John Grimaldi
One man’s agony: “I am 77 years old. I was happily married for 55 years but I lost my wife a year and a half ago. No, she didn’t die. In fact, she is in great physical health– except for her Alzheimer’s Disease. She is in a Memory Care Facility. I see her a couple of times each week. Her confinement and my isolation have left me devastated. I love her and wake up each and every morning sad and abandoned.”
It’s not easy growing old and alone, no matter the circumstances. And, while that man’s situation is particularly difficult, a growing number of seniors will be condemned to spend the winter of life in solitude in the coming years.
The Association of Mature American Citizens cites a report produced by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, which reports that “By 2038, there will be 17.5 million households in their 80s and over, more than double the 8.1 million in 2018. These households will also constitute an increasingly larger share of all US households, doubling from 6 percent in 2018 to 12 percent in 2038. As we note in our recent report, Housing America’s Older Adults 2019, the majority of these households will be made up of just a single person.”
And, says AMAC, a growing number of those “singles” will be senior citizens. “Seniors who live alone in America are increasing with each passing year and, currently, nearly a third of men and women 65 years of age or older live alone. The Census Bureau reports that more than 12 million aging seniors live alone– more than 28 percent of folks over 65 years. And, interestingly, they do so because they want it that way.”
The Merck Manual, a comprehensive medical resource for the past 122 years, “almost 90 percent of older people living alone express a keen desire to maintain their independence. Many fear being too dependent on others and, despite the loneliness, want to continue to live alone.” Nonetheless, the Manual points out that in order to remain independent they need to live healthy lives and engage in social activities.
But the reality is that not only has isolation impacted their quality of life, 12 percent of seniors who live by themselves say they have difficulty making ends meet, not even enough money to deal with basic expenses. And their loneliness, in too many cases, has been increased by the COVID pandemic and is poised to become especially painful as the holiday season grows near.
But friends, family and caring neighbors can help alleviate their pain, according to the National Council on Aging. Here’s how:
- With the holiday season fast approaching it’s easy for them to feel even more alone than at other times. So, get them involved, help them to make celebration preparations. Keep them encouraged and hopeful by conversing with them in person and/or on the phone to make them feel that you care.
- Offer to help them to get out and about and go with them for moral and engaging supp[ort.
- Encourage them to socialize, perhaps convincing them to take adult education classes or to take up a hobby. It’s never too late in life for such activities.
And, by all means, keep them on your list of people to call and/or visit on a regular basis and help them feel wanted.
The 2.4 million member Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC] www.amac.us is a vibrant, vital senior advocacy organization that takes its marching orders from its members. AMAC Action is a non-profit, non-partisan organization representing the membership in our nation’s capital and in local Congressional Districts throughout the country.