SENIORS: COMPANIONSHIP CHOICES, THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ALONE AND LONELY

Sep 2nd, 2011 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Understanding Loneliness

While divorce is not so frequent among seniors, the possibility for separation is.  Depending on age and health, the primary contributor to separation as we age is death. When it strikes, considering all the extenuating factors, one is left with a void that is often a major life struggle. Joined with that is the resulting sense of loneliness and heartbreak that comes with it.

At some point in the grief process, one begins to examine the issue of companionship with someone who may help meet the needs that come so dramatically with being alone.

One of the critical factors for anyone, under any circumstance of living, being, or residing alone, even for short periods, is to understand the difference between alone and lonelyAlone is often a more temporary state of being.  One stays at home, the other makes an abbreviated trip.  While separated from each other, the other is missed and there is a sense of something not being quite right.  But, in healthy relationships, that passes and the two are reunited within a reasonable period of time.  Being alone, then, is usually a temporary condition.

Lonely is a State of Mind

Lonely, however, is a state of mindIt is exacerbated by attitude, self image, an acceptance of the reality of present conditions, a mature concept of managing loneliness so it does not get the best of you.  When it does, the trap is set.  Despair, depression, self criticism and dissatisfaction all become likely and frequent.  Loneliness is often fed by regret, by guilt, by circumstances that continue a negative cycle in life and living.

When loneliness is re-engineered to become a state of being alone then one is on the road to improvement and making choices which will contribute to a much healthier state of mind.  Many widows have learned this lesson well.  They normally have support systems and circles of friends which contribute to their being able to handle being alone well.  Men, on the other hand, seem to need, crave, depend on companionship of someone who is with them 24/7.   Some men find interests that involve them in ways to limit the negative influence of loneliness.  Others, however, seem to need to identify, and often quickly, a partner who will share life with them on a one to one basis.

Alone and Lonely are two dynamics which all of us experience.  Being alone can be a productively possible event in one’s life in which all kinds of positive influences may be nurtured.  Loneliness, on the other hand, can be insidious and debilitating emotionally.  Finding ways to manage your own situation will determine your ability to remain a healthy older person who is in touch with personal needs and finds positive ways to meet them.



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  1. [...] Ask their name.  Where they lived.  Find out some information about who they are.  They are still a who, a person, who needs genuine, sensitive caring.  This is a moment for active meditative interaction.  The visitor has a chance to both give and receive.  The one visited can test his/her own abilities to exercise appreciation.  What a marvelous way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  What a remarkable experience for persons whose own families may not be able to stop by.  What a chance to put legs and feet to work.  What a way to cast bread on the waters and feed the soul of one who may feel alone and lonely. [...]

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