Strengthening Families. Building Communities. Reducing Poverty.

Identifying and Overcoming Loneliness

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 I consider myself to be a social person because I thrive on opportunities to engage and connect with others but I realize that we as individuals can experience loneliness in the mist of being surrounded by others.  Mother Teresa said, “Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty” because we ultimately all have the fundamental need to belong and be loved.

 We often use loneliness and isolation interchangeably. While they can be related, they are different concepts.  Loneliness is best understood as a person’s emotional state, described as a sense of not having meaningful contact with others, accompanied by feelings of emptiness, deprivation or sadness. However, isolation refers to a lack of contact with family or friends or a loss or lack of community involvement.  Therefore, it is possible to be lonely but not isolated and vice versa.  

 Fortunately, there are ways to combat loneliness, although doing so takes some initiative.  The following are a few ideas and tips that you might find helpful.

  1. Get to know your neighbor:  Inquire within your local parish about senior group or other ministries that connect seniors to one another and get involved. 
  2. Volunteer at your local parish, Catholic Charities or other organization of interest.
  3. Engage in social media – great way to keep up with friends and family.
  4. Check out your local community college and enroll in a class.
  5. Participate in an educational program sponsored through your parish, community or Catholic Charities.
  6. Explore your living arrangements – does your current living arrangement offer opportunities for social interactions with others or is it a hindrance?
  7. Set up transportation options – contact your local Area Agency on Aging.
  8. Join a support group.
  9. Adopt a pet.
  10. Take a chance – reach out to others and be receptive to those who might reach out to you.

 

 On the television show, “The Golden Girls”, four widows live together, providing each other companionship, friendship and emotional support.  Many individuals today, lack this kind of social network.  In fact, loneliness is a serious problem among older adults.  According to some studies, at any given time, 20%-40% of older adults feel lonely.  Lack of companionship can negatively impact overall health of an older adult, whether the loneliness is caused by the loss of a loved one, family or friends moving away, chronic health issues, fear of falling, or a change in living arrangements. Experts say that loneliness is more about how people experience relationships subjectively, not the number of relationships they have.  Loneliness can affect anyone at any age, so being aware of it and how in impacts us can be helpful in preventing it.

 Overcoming the poverty of loneliness will take everyone working together and reaching out to one another because loneliness should not be taken lightly as it can lead to some very serious consequences.  Let us each be the hands and feet of Christ by showing brotherly love to one another.

 

By Sandra Breakfield,
Elder Ministry Program Director

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Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte © 2014