Saturday, May 14, 2011

GROWING OLD AND LONELY

Photo: The Star 6 May 2011
This picture and the accompanying article "Growing old alone is a sad thought" in the Star last week prompted me to write this blog post. Looking after my mom for the past months after her hip surgery has made me realize that growing old can be very lonely if you don't have someone to share the journey with you. You can have a house full of family members, yet the loneliness remains. Your adult children and grandchildren are not of your generation. They don't share the same wavelength or speak the same 'old' language. They are out most of the day, and when home, are busy with their own things. The little time spent with you is mostly confined to meal times at home or out.

It makes little difference whether you are in your 60s or 80s, living at home or in a home - you are still marking time on your own if your other half is no longer around. All day long you sit there in your favourite armchair or lie in bed, alone with your thoughts. What is going on in your mind? Are you reliving your carefree days of youth? Are you regretting over things you should have or shouldn't have done? Or are you pondering your future, whatever is left of it, as you count down your remaining years?

As I look at my mother sitting staring into space, these are the questions that run through my mind. I wonder too when I reach her age, would I end up just like her - lonely, depressed and showing early signs of dementia?

I hope not. I think not. I'm sure not.

There is no quality of life if each day is spent waiting - waiting for meal time or bed-time. Having someone to engage with you is important. Blessed are couples who stay happily married in their old age. They have each other to lean on. They have held true to their marriage vows of "through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, till death do us part".

As my good friend, Mrs Jagjeet Singh, 70, says, Couples that do things together stay together. They should also have complete trust in each other, and be deserving of that trust. With the children grown and independent, this is the best time for retired couples to rediscover each other, travel together, enjoy each other's company and rekindle that romantic spark in their marriage.”

However, there are elderly couples who bicker all day long and get on each other's nerves. For them and for those who choose to remain single, it's important they have a close circle of friends with common interests. They should get together on a regular basis and enjoy group activities and outings. There must be something on their social calendar to look forward to each week.

A group of senior citizens enjoying a day outing.
Alternatively, the elderly should develop a passion for at least two things - one that they can enjoy on their own (e.g. reading, gardening), and one that involves other people (e.g. social activities like going for classes, or volunteering for community services like helping the underprivileged). Even if they are wheelchair bound or in a nursing home, they can still keep themselves busy and useful.

The message is to have an interest in life, and in people. The fastest route to loneliness and depression is to be a recluse, to spend your days feeling wretched and sorry for yourself.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

and just what do you suggest?

Anonymous said...

But even if you have a mate, you can still spend your days lonely and deppressed. If you can't work anymore,or do the things you use to because of medical conditions.Then life is alot of pain, loneliness, tears, and the bad thing is you are 57, so you cannot go to most "senior centers" (eventhough they are the only people who understand what you are going through); but those are the rules.

Trudy Chen said...

Hello Anonymous - I do understand how you feel. My husband and I are in our mid 50s, and sometimes we do fear the loneliness. Write to me, we can share in our darkest hours. Writing helps.