“I want to be like you when I grow up!”
“I’m serious, Miss Norma, you are an inspiration, you are my hero,” I said to Miss Norma who’s 80 something. She’s a wonderfully resilient woman who has developed many ways of preventing senior loneliness.
Hero, what makes a hero?
Of course, it is someone you admire. In spite of how hard life has hit her, Miss Norma has been brave. Her husband died with cancer before retirement age and not long after her only son died in a car wreck. She was alone. She was hurt, disappointed and in shock.
Those tragedies could have kept her from moving forward, but now in her eighties, she still reaches out to encourage others daily. Through phone calls, a card sent in the mail or going with a friend to visit someone, she hasn’t let those tragedies slow her down or affect her positive outlook on life. When you are with her, at her home, you’d think you are the only person in the world.
“How do you keep going, keep reaching out to people?” Her reply “I have to push myself. Each morning, though it takes me longer to get going, I make myself get up, eat breakfast, bathe, dress for the day. Another secret of mine is to try to stay on a schedule of going to bed about the same time each evening; getting up about the same time each morning. Over the years I’ve found that when I have a routine, it helps to keep me motivated to reach out to others after I’ve finished my morning routine.”
As we age it takes more time and effort to get going and do the things we used to do. If we aren’t careful, it can cause isolation and loneliness which has a serious effect on our health.
Mother Teresa said it this way, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”
There are ways to overcome loneliness, even if you live alone and find it hard to get out. Loneliness is not a condition to be treated but a state of mind of how you view your situation without doing anything about it. We have the power to change the way we think and create a life that is full vibrant as we age.
Here are some things you can do to interact with others and remain active to avoid isolation and loneliness.
- Set a routine. Having a schedule of helps you have a plan and purpose for your day. It helps keep your mind sharp as you plan out the day and what you are going to do.
- Get creative for someone else. You could crochet or knit a scarf, build a birdhouse, or any craft that you can give to a friend or neighbor.
- Send a card to a family member or friend and tell them a story. You could share a story about your childhood to a grandchild or a neighborhood child as a great way to let them know what life was like growing up compared to now.
- Call a friend or relative. It can be the next best thing to being with them.
- Listen. Being a listening ear to your neighbor who comes by or a friend that stops to visit invites them to build a friendship with you.
- Invite a friend or neighbor to come for afternoon coffee or tea. If you don’t know what to talk about, ask them questions about themselves. Everyone likes to talk about their experiences.
- Take time to smile at others when you are out, even when it’s hard. People like to be acknowledged, even when you don’t start a conversation. try asking people about themselves.
Loneliness and isolation don’t have to be a part of your life as you age. Like Miss Norma, you can do little things to remain active and spending time with others. Create a routine, care and connect with others, and share our gifts and our stories with someone else. When we do that, we live a vibrant and healthy life.