All my life I’ve had a very active social life.
In fact, sometimes it seemed too active. I craved “alone time”. I enjoyed being by myself. However, over the last 15 years I have eliminated so much that lately I feel like I don’t do much of anything. I went so far in the opposite direction that my brother started to think I was becoming a recluse.
Fortunately, unlike Howard Hughes, my fingernails are only an inch and a half long, and my dreadlocks are very stylish!
Jokes aside, I find myself feeling very lonely.
I miss the activities that made life so hectic yet satisfying. One of my goals this year was to start having a vibrant social life. Filled with friends and dare I say a lover!?!
Loneliness is not something that is easy to admit. At times I feel like I am wasting my life away. Especially when I spend whole weekends at home alone doing nothing.
To me it feels like a failure. I guess I always thought having lots of friends and activities is a badge of honor.
If you relate to this, remember you are not alone in feeling this way.
Many women over 50 feel loneliness from time to time. Some like myself have been feeling it for a while. I think it is one of the negative aspects of getting older.
But I am convinced that it’s something we can fix.
According to a 2018 national survey by Cigna, loneliness levels have reached an all-time high; with nearly half of 20,000 U.S. adults reporting they sometimes or always feel alone. Forty percent of survey participants also reported they sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful and that they feel isolated.
As women over 50 we have an increased risk for loneliness and social isolation because we are more likely to face factors such as living alone, the loss of family or friends, chronic illness, divorce and empty nest syndrome. Some of us have retired so that we don’t even have the daily interaction of people at work.
The CDC stated in their article “Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions,“ although it’s hard to measure social isolation and loneliness precisely, there is strong evidence that many adults aged 50 and older are socially isolated or lonely in ways that put their health at risk. Recent studies found that:
- Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.
- Social isolation was associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia.
- Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) was associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
- Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
- Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.
As you can see loneliness effects not just our mental health but also our physical health.
Add in the current pandemia and the added social distancing it requires, and we’re looking at a true obstacle to living a fulfilling life.
So what am I going to do about this?
The first step in turning this around is to acknowledge feeling lonely, at the very least, to myself.
The next step is having a vision for what a vibrant social life looks like. For everyone it’s different. For some having a few good friends you spend a lot of time with is perfect. For some being active within your family group is great. Then for others having lots of friends, a significant other, and plenty of activities is the goal.
I am more of the lots of friends, strong family connections, a boyfriend, and lots of activities person.
My first step is saying yes to almost every invitation. That is making a difference but not enough. I started reaching out to old friends I’ve lost touch with. That is helping. Also making new friends, which I think is the most important to me. I am also putting a lot of effort into nurturing the friends I do have.
The next goal is to meet a guy I really dig. Online dating seems to be the way to go so that is something I will be starting in a few months. I am the type of person who needs to start small and build up over time. So building my friendships is the first thing I will address. Once I feel like that I am in a good place I will start to add dating to my plan.
If you are feeling loneliness it is time to put in some effort into turning that around.
Join my Facebook group “For women over 50” to be part of a community where you can meet likeminded people and make new friends. If you are part of the group then spend the time reaching out to the other women in the group.
I believe we are all open to making new friends.
Finally, remember my 15 minutes rule.
Even if it’s just for 15 minutes, make sure you dedicate some time every single day to overcoming solitude and nurturing meaningful connections with people in your life. You can’t cause change by doing the same things you’ve been doing all along.
Don’t set yourself up for failure.
Instead of saying “by such-and-such date I won’t feel lonely” – a goal that is not truly under your control – fixate on taking actions that are under your control. Talk to a friend. Set up a lunch date. Signup to an online dating service. These are all steps you can actively take.
The more you put yourself out there, the better your chances of connecting with others and feeling fulfilled!