I have written about this many times before. But here is another important reminder about the dangers of loneliness as we age. This time from Scotland.
On Friday my husband Richard left for St. Andrews, Scotland to visit his mother and father. His mother is 87 today and he wanted to celebrate this special day with her. He also wanted to visit his 89-year-old father, who is blind and now completely immobile and living in a nursing home. The visits are hard because Richard’s Dad no longer possesses the agile mind he once had; but occasionally there are glimmers of the old Alan Macgregor. Thankfully, he always seems to know family when they come, even if he does not always make sense.
Of course the person this is hardest of all on is Richard’s mother. Thankfully, she stays in touch with friends and goes out for coffee or lunch and attends various university lectures. I know she misses Richard’s Dad terribly, but these outings seem to help. She also gets regular weekly visits from Richard’s three siblings, who are very devoted in their care of both their mother and father.
For those who don’t have these connections, life can be very lonely. But a recent article suggests that we can all help to alleviate another’s loneliness and sense of isolation. In an article in The Scotsman, Adam Strachura says that every day 100,000 older people in Scotland live with chronic loneliness. Strachura, who is Age Scotland’s head of Policy and Communications, says that this is one person for every street in Scotland. Moreover, the numbers are climbing. But there is a way to help. Strachura says:
“…the way to tackle loneliness and isolation already exists in every community. We can all do something about it.
The answer is something that most of us have access to: time. It may be precious but a little goes a long way. Just a little bit of time can give an older person who lives alone on your street or an older family member the chance to go out, meet new people and feel connected again.
So how do we change this? Talk, invite and make time. From something so simple as helping someone home with their shopping while having a blether, to inviting your neighbour round for dinner, taking them with you to the football or asking them to join you as you walk your dog, every quality minute spent with an older person really does count. I truly believe that. And to be honest, you’ll feel great for doing it.
We should all be able to love later life without fear of becoming isolated or lonely. The time to take action is now.”