Lonely People's Solitude
I am not even sure the title of this article makes sense grammatically speaking but I suppose it’s not super important in the grand scheme of things. There is this café or should I say coffee shop where I have been dropping by regularly the last few years, one of those local small sandwich and bagel eateries, the coffee is nice enough and is always served with a smile.
There is this elderly lady I seem to bump into all the time no matter when I go there, she drinks her tea slowly and sometimes there is even a patisserie with it. The staff is really good to her but past the forced smile I have never seen her engaging in any type of conversation or returning the odd hello offered to her. Her old mobile phone in front of her, she seems to wait for a call that never comes. I don’t know what is her story but to me she looks like somebody who is irremediably lonely.
“A complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation or lack of companionship. Loneliness typically includes anxious feelings about a lack of connectedness or communality with other beings, both in the present and extending into the future. As such, loneliness can be felt even when surrounded by other people. The causes of loneliness are varied and include social, mental, emotional, and spiritual factors.”
When I was probably around ten, the family made a pause with its nomadic existence for roughly nine months. I must say I welcomed the break and there was an added bonus to it being in the same city where lived my paternal grandfather, fair to say though that I did not know him very well. No matter in which city we ended up in, I systematically used to roam around on my bike and explore the surroundings and various neighborhoods. A bit introvert by nature I was a very autonomous boy for a ten-year-old but these were different times too.
To cut a long story short providing it was safe enough due to newly set cycle tracks along the river, I had been allowed a 20mns weekly ride to my grandfather’s every Wednesday afternoon. School was traditionally off in those days.
A widower, my grandfather had relocated from the country side into a three room flat on the ground floor including a tiny kitchen, on the plus side it had a small garden and a shed. Not a great talker my grandfather he had one hen and two cats, one was the mother and was called BB-Cheek.
We quickly established a ritual insofar as after we had picked tomatoes, strawberries or lettuce in his garden for me to bring back home, I was always offered a hot chocolate and some yummy paves Bretons. We chatted a bit and I had a lot of questions about the photo showing him in his impeccable uniform next to a neatly groomed horse, I only realize it now but he was always standing when we had those discussions, there was only one chair.
We moved again and I filled my Wednesday afternoons with other activities, my grand-father got very sick the following year and on one of those rare phone calls my dad asked him if he needed anything or should he organized anything for him. He told my father he wanted the Wednesday afternoons back…...the cats were asking for me.
For the business brains I have not managed to find any conclusive data on the cost of loneliness partially because there is no tool gathering the data and the various components are spread thru various economic verticals. I have not spoken either to local agencies here in Ireland such as Age Action or Third Age but they are a doing a terrific job from where I am standing.
There seem to be a consensus though that while elderly citizens are more likely to be affected by loneliness we need to remind ourselves they are not the only ones. Figures have shown that fifty-one per cent of people in the UK aged 75 and older live alone, for about five million older people television they say is their main source of company. Seventeen per cent of older people are in contact with family, friends or neighbours less than once a week and eleven per cent less than a month.
France made loneliness a ‘’Cause Nationale’’ back in 2011 when a staggering thirty-three per cent of the population under 25 was considered as suffering from some form of loneliness, the term epidemic was even used when it came to design plans to combat and prevent this sad state of affairs. Bad economy and other parameters can come into play but technology isolation is also a non-negligible denominator. You remember the lady at the beginning of this article, I think her mobile is obviously not smart enough to call for companionship on her behalf.
Am I isolated in thinking about loneliness and its impact? Moving into what is commonly called super aged societies it would be great to think more actively about the elders not only in terms of their spending power but also consider their emotional well-being. I think we can all do a bit better on this and as my daughter used to say when she started speaking I cannot be
THE LONELY ONE
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