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The ache of loneliness

Tina Y. Gerber

In our fast-paced society, it’s easy to be lonely, whether you are 20, 40, 60, 80 or 100! The loneliness epidemic is affecting people of all ages. It can be a big problem because people are living longer, families are spread out geographically and we know that loneliness is a growing problem especially among the elderly. I read experts already warn that loneliness and social isolation have the potential to be the country’s next public health crisis!!

Loneliness can be felt even when you’re surrounded by people! Experts report that loneliness can cause aches and pains far greater than many physical ailments! Research also shows that loneliness increases a person’s risk of early death, from diseases such as obesity, smoking, or being an alcoholic. Living alone and growing old are not predictors of loneliness, but age brings with it many difficult changes that contribute to a solitary life. Significant friends move away, divorce, widowed or never married and your social circle begins to shrink little by little.      

Overcoming loneliness requires thought and effort, but it is possible. Experts believe that it is not the number of social interactions that combat loneliness, but it’s the quality. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of believing that loneliness is forever. You may feel lonely today, tomorrow, or even next week but that doesn’t mean you are alone or that no one cares. There is good news because the answer lies in a close and intimate fellowship with God.  As Christians, we stand on the promise of God to never leave us nor forsake us because we have God walking with us through and through. We all want to love and be loved back. Only God’s love can fill that space. God invites us near, both on sunny days and stormy nights! Knowing how hard life would be God gave us a promise to anchor our souls in Him. 

Learning about and understanding loneliness can be a powerful tool.  Social connections are critical for fighting off loneliness. Step out of your comfort zone! You could try attending library events, art museums, get involved by volunteering at schools, or your local nursing home. Do some charity work at the hospital or get involved in a theatre group, or start a new hobby. It’s also a great way to give back to your community and help people in need. The challenge is to focus on building deeper bonds with those around you. Hobbies create a sense of purpose and give you a reason to get out of the house and something to anticipate each day. Sing, move, dance or play an instrument to express yourself. I know it’s important to stay active and keep your mind sharp and remember to include a regimen of regular exercise as part of your daily life. While seniors may be more fragile, exercise is still important for maintaining good health keeping your mind active and loneliness at bay.

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