By Younas Chaudhary
More than half of us are lonely, says a study commissioned by the Cigna Group that has been tracking loneliness in America since 2018. This makes me appreciate that I was lucky enough to live and grow up in a family of 23. This gave me a foundation to cope with loneliness later in my life.
Older adults, especially non-English speaking immigrants, are facing loneliness being forced to live alone in assisted living facilities. Caused by multiple factors, loneliness stems from mental health issues like anxiety, depression, difficulty adjusting to cultural differences, or lack of meaningful relationships in one’s life. There is no uniform cause for loneliness, but I believe culture and our heritage can play a role in keeping off the feeling of loneliness.
For instance, my grandmother who lived in Pakistan her entire life never felt socially isolated until her last days when she passed away at age 104. She was a strong-willed woman and there was rarely a dull moment in her life. My father took care of her day-to-day needs, family members were there to make daily visits, entertain her, and keep her busy. I saw all this going on right in front of my eyes while growing up.
In large extended families, joint living and daily interactions with other family members was the norm and not the exception. As a child this gave me a feeling of family and togetherness. As I grew older, family members of different ages living in the same home advised me and scolded me if I made mistakes.
Unfortunately, social isolation in the West starts at age 18 when most kids leave their parents’ home. Parents are forced to adjust and live alone until the next weekend visit. The lines are blurring between Eastern and Western cultures in how people are dealing with loneliness among older adults.
As old folks are feeling lonely, the young between the ages of 18 and 22 are also feeling neglected and unwanted. There are no easy solutions to fighting loneliness other than to follow some common-sense tips:
- Find time to smell the roses with someone close to you– your spouse, a good companion, your children, or close acquaintances. Do this consistently.
- If you live alone, find companionship with someone having a happy nature and good heart.
- Travel with a friend to visit parks and other interesting locations.
- Regularly have a cup of coffee and a positive conversation with someone you like and feel good to be with.
- There is no point in feeling grumpy and hiding inside your home. Instead, find a friend or join a group of likeminded people or a book club and have conversations.
- Couples going on consistent date nights can help build stronger relationships, lessen the costs of seeing a therapist, and reduce loneliness in their lives.
- If you are not mobile, use technology to stay in touch with children and friends. Talk about hobbies, a book, or a television show you have watched.
- Living with family can reduce loneliness and its negative impacts like serious illness and early death.
- Taking advantage of meaningful volunteering opportunities in your community can also help you get out of loneliness.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.