Loneliness in old age

Petra Bensted has created this photo essay to highlight the loneliness felt by many older Australians.

Loneliness in old age

When I was working on this project, my mother was 83. My neighbours, who are widows and widowers, are really interesting, entertaining, humorous people, but are rarely noticed because people don’t take the time to listen. I got to know these people on a personal basis and found they all have something in common – they are so lonely. Loneliness in old age is a terrible side effect of our culture.

Photography is my voice, so I decided to do a photo essay to raise awareness of this situation in our society – to give a voice to the seniors who are lonely. If, by creating this awareness, I could just change the life of one senior, then I have achieved my goal.

Does Lieselotte's strory resonate with you? Do you know someone in her situation who you could reach out to?

See more of Petra's work on Flickr.

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    COMMENTS

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    25th May 2019
    3:33pm
    have a friend who lives on own...says she is not lonely but that is just a facade. Loneliness in the elderly is terrible and the only person she sees is the postie ..her family rarely visit as they are tied up with their own lives and live some distance away. I am firmly of the belief that not speaking to another person on a daily basis hastens dementia.
    ollie
    26th May 2019
    10:40am
    As a widower I know what it is like its strange when my wife passed away she was only sixty I found all our friends seemed to go their own way. But I think that is how Australians have become in the last 20 years. It used to be look after your neighbour now its I am ok stuff you. When my father came to this country after being a prisoner of war in Poland I remember him saying how great the people of this country are how they would give you the shirt of their backs how times have changed saying all that I have got on with life and am enjoying it .
    Anonymous
    26th May 2019
    11:00am
    So true, ollie - now it's catch as catch can greed is good and every man for himself.

    It concerns me that everyone with an 'issue' these days demands that BigGuv step in and enforce it for them... been that way since the heady days of the Great Feminist Revolution - The Cause - country's never looked up since.
    ollie
    26th May 2019
    10:40am
    As a widower I know what it is like its strange when my wife passed away she was only sixty I found all our friends seemed to go their own way. But I think that is how Australians have become in the last 20 years. It used to be look after your neighbour now its I am ok stuff you. When my father came to this country after being a prisoner of war in Poland I remember him saying how great the people of this country are how they would give you the shirt of their backs how times have changed saying all that I have got on with life and am enjoying it .

    26th May 2019
    10:52am
    I've suffered from loneliness all of my life; it's getting worse.
    Anonymous
    26th May 2019
    11:04am
    Ah, for some men nothing is written unless they write it themselves... Lawrence of Arabia.

    You may be an exceptionally intelligent person etc - such things are not uncommon. We do live in a world in which people don't really know their neighbours any more.

    Just moved to a new neighbourhood near the sea - the bloke next door was very welcoming - his missus 'quiet' - she came out t'other day to check on why I was sawing up a piece of timber to make a step for the disabled ex.... didn't say a word... I do hope she's not one of those schizos who 'don't like noise' - got a few other things to do yet.
    ollie
    26th May 2019
    11:26am
    I find that loneliness and depression are linked the more depressed I am the less I want to mix with people it might be just me. I am a great one telling people that they should get help but I don't take my own advice
    Anonymous
    29th May 2019
    10:03am
    Ollie, thank you for your honesty..so many hide the fact that they "are" lonely. if it was not for me pushing my husband to mix outside the home he would not move. if anything happens to me at least he will have company.ok to say you like your own company but in the long run it is not good for you to be on your own all the time. I am also not one for coffee mornings and people popping in and out every day but I do like company on my terms and where I live there is plenty around.

    26th May 2019
    10:57am
    43 'ministers' out of 76 seats and you want more?

    When are some of those silver-tailed bludgers going to actually work?

    We need a Minister for Men to match those for women, ethnics, Aboriginals and so forth...
    Triss
    26th May 2019
    11:02am
    We need to send this to the next pea-brained idiot who advocates the elderly being moved from their homes to save a couple of dollars for "taxpayers".
    BERRYUPSET
    26th May 2019
    11:27am
    I`m 80 yrs live on my own now AND I thoroughly enjoy it!I THINK AS HUMAN BEINGS we are meant to be social BUT that doesn`t`mean you can`t be perfectly happy outside of society too!YOU CAN BE ALONE BUT NOT NECESSARILY LONELY!!I find(aftera busy life family travel etcetc that ISOLATION brings with it A SPECIAL peace AND tranquility that I READILY embrace!I ENJOY the calmness and stillness that it brings and is something to be treasured in a world focused on SPEED and COMPETITION!I FEEL THAT YOUR HAPPINESS comes from within youand try to live an optimistic life.Being on my own isa time to rejoice I HAVE A COUPLE OF MANTRAS I USE..`HOW CAN YOU BE LONELY IF YOU `LIKE` THE PERSON YOU`RE WITH (YOU)..AND ON A MORNING .....NO MATTER HOW YOU FEEL GET UP!DRESS UP!SHOW UP!AND NEVER GIVE UP!!!!i occupy myself by painting,computer on line,fitness (walking)some TV and chat occassionally to my family!BUT I DON`T (NEVER)SIT AROUND FEELING SORRY FOR MYSELF!I`M GRATEFUL FOR WHAT I`VE HAD /GOT and not what I HAVEN`T GOT! TO EACH HIS OWN BUT I TRY TO REVEL IN MY INDEPENDENCE regarding my life (and what`s left of it)and living alone!!I ALWAYS TRY AND RESPECT MYSELF AND BE AS CONFIDENT AS I CAN BE!!(HOPE THIS HELPS!!!X
    Rosret
    26th May 2019
    12:05pm
    Why are you yelling at us with capitals?
    The Men's club was set up for men who felt disconnected after retirement. Women have similar avenues.
    If you have wheels, money and your health, communication with the outside world continues.

    Texting adds to the loneliness as everyone can high speed their 'duty' call. Christmas and Easter that require a massive effort and a huge expense are "all" family on one day events. You work like a slave - they are gone and that's it for quite some time because they all came at once.

    I would agree that the weekends are the worst because you know families are all having a lovely time somewhere and is uncool to have a grandparent tag along these days. I remember how I, as an adult, used to love being with my parents on family picnics. I would love being just a phone call away and my Mum was just there.

    I would have to say having a dog to meet up with fellow retirees and others at the off leach areas is great. We chat about all sorts of useless - yet seemingly important issues and then go back to a less burdened life.

    Loneliness is a huge issue and our lack of connectivity as a society as a whole is the cause of many social issues for every age.
    Poppysmum
    26th May 2019
    1:57pm
    Berry Upset......please try not to use capital letters unless you are wanting to emphasise one or two (read ONE or TWO), words.....it is considered to be rude on social media... also, it is actually really hard to read. Thanks.
    Hardworker
    26th May 2019
    5:53pm
    Congratulations BERRYUPSET like me, you have mastered the art of what I call self-psychology. Being able to help yourself no matter what the issue is by using your very own brain power and not relying on anyone else to come to your rescue. We all need to fill our lives with so many activities that we stop feeling sorry for ourselves. Change the negative thoughts to positive ones. There are a multitude of clubs to join, activities to do and if you can't afford any of those you can always go for a walk somewhere safe and enjoy the wildlife, people you bump into, pets in people's yards, plants etc. Hop on a bus and go walk around a botanical garden or park. That doesn't cost an arm and a leg. I find I am always the one who has to arrange get togethers with friends but am just grateful I actually have friends. It takes EFFORT to make friends and retain friends so to anyone out there who is lonely, stop feeling negatively and get out there and make some friends.
    Paddington
    26th May 2019
    12:44pm
    Loneliness takes many forms. Some people are restricted by their inability to travel or go out much. Others have limited funds to do anything with like going on holiday or eating out and travelling to family. The internet is wonderful in that it allows a connection to the world and to family. Maybe an elderly person on their own needs to tell her family that she is lonely. Maybe she does not want to seem needy, but she should let them know how she feels. They may not stop to realise that she could be feeling like this.
    Selfishness is another reason for loneliness. The grandparents are no longer needed for childminding or money lending.
    Maybe we need to help ourselves. Join Men’s Shed or Card/games mornings or host a morning tea at home for your neighbours. Create our own world of companions by being proactive. Look for other lonely people and help them which would also help you.
    It is sad and should not happen but don’t accept it do something about it.
    BERRYUPSET
    26th May 2019
    1:07pm
    GOOD ON YA MATE! BE PRO ACTIVE!STOP BEING SORRY FOR ONESELF !LOIFES TO BLEEDIN SHORT!Thanks
    Anonymous
    29th May 2019
    10:05am
    please stop using capitals ..it is offensive!
    tisme
    26th May 2019
    1:54pm
    know the feeling, family all dead now , neighbours are hostile from the moment i moved in friends i thought i had 10 years ago I dont back them since then .....................
    Barbara Mathieson
    26th May 2019
    3:17pm
    Alone , but not lonely.
    Perhaps I am lucky; have been alone for some 22 years now.
    However I make use of whatever community services I can avail myself of.
    I still drive , pickup my lonely friends for different club meetings. I volunteer once a week at the local TAFE.
    I belong to two clubs and serve on the committee for both .

    My local volunteering Transport group will pick me up for various outings when I have the time!

    I’m an only child, so no brothers or sisters to “ call upon”.
    Family keep in touch, but I don’t see a lot of them.

    If you live on your own , social interactions are a must!
    There are many community groups that can help you. Scan your free papers for information, yes, you do have to put in some effort but I have found it worthwhile.

    Community Noticeboards offer good contacts re clubs in your area.
    Get help from your GP if necessary- speak up , ( nicely) or you will get “ lost in the system“!
    Remain positive please...
    Incognito
    26th May 2019
    3:18pm
    You can be lonely in a crowd of people, so it can be a state of mind, there are many clubs, organization, volunteer opportunities, courses to do, and more, so when you are keeping busy you don't have time to be lonely.
    Incognito
    26th May 2019
    3:19pm
    And drinking alcohol won't help because it is a depressant.
    CountryCatkin
    26th May 2019
    3:46pm
    I love living alone, but I am not lonely. I have wonderful friends, Great neighbours with four young children, a sibling who lives in the city, but no nieces or nephews. I have a number of beautiful animals in my care who are a pseudo family. Today I have been out for lunch for the second time in two days. I am welcomed back where I used to work and can contribute there. I am active in my church and can make a significant contribution through it. But I love doing much of my community work here at home using the computer. My main love is pottering around here in the home, setting my own pace for the day unless there is something in particular that I have on the calendar outside of the house. I work with a student after school on occasions and many people keep an eye on my well being. I have not always had brilliant health but living in a small country town is a big plus I’m sure.
    BERRYUPSET
    26th May 2019
    8:48pm
    re my comments BERRY UPSET Sorry about CAPITALS I need a new keyboard (sticks)and no red light to say I`m using capitals SO I jUsT Go FoR IT!!!:->>>>
    CountryCatkin
    27th May 2019
    12:24am
    Go for it, however it appears. It is after all, communicating! Don’t worry about the previous critics. It is what you write, rather than the size of the letters.
    eckac
    26th May 2019
    9:59pm
    U3A (University of the 3rd Age) is a non-profit organisation for retirees, providing volunteer driven completely informal learning activities at very low cost. There are individual groups throughout Australia, particularly along the NSW North coast, No formal qualifications are required and none awarded. Attendance is completely voluntary and courses are of 1 to 8 sessions during 4 terms of eight weeks per year. Great way to socialise, make connections and build a friendship network
    eckac
    26th May 2019
    10:00pm
    U3A (University of the 3rd Age) is a non-profit organisation for retirees, providing volunteer driven completely informal learning activities at very low cost. There are individual groups throughout Australia, particularly along the NSW North coast, No formal qualifications are required and none awarded. Attendance is completely voluntary and courses are of 1 to 8 sessions during 4 terms of eight weeks per year. Great way to socialise, make connections and build a friendship network
    Dancer
    27th May 2019
    12:45pm
    Loneliness is indeed endemic in our society. A few tips which I have found helpful in making new friends and connections - join a choir - both men and women can enjoy singing. If it's a community-type choir you don't need to read music or feel you can sing well - in fact our choir leaders have told us on more than one occasion that anyone can sing! (I was reminded of this when I heard this morning that Jonathon Welch, who started the Choir of Hard Knocks, is handing the baton to a new choir leader). Even if you go along and sing quietly you will enjoy and benefit from singing and make friends too. For the ladies - join a Red Hat group - the right one should offer nothing but fun and friendship. For the fellows - a Men's shed as already suggested. Or join a service club - I have recently join a local Lion's club and am enjoying making new friends. Or do some volunteer work that you enjoy.
    None of these suggestions guarantee you will make friends or alleviate loneliness. Loneliness can be a state of mind, meaning you can be lonely in a room full of people.
    It's certainly not easy to walk into a room full of strangers and/or to make new friends as we get older - be confident, smile, show genuine interest in other people. Make the effort to stay in touch with people you know, by phoning them, emailing, inviting them for a coffee or a meal. It can be hard work but worth it if you enjoy the person's company.
    Dancer
    27th May 2019
    12:45pm
    Loneliness is indeed endemic in our society. A few tips which I have found helpful in making new friends and connections - join a choir - both men and women can enjoy singing. If it's a community-type choir you don't need to read music or feel you can sing well - in fact our choir leaders have told us on more than one occasion that anyone can sing! (I was reminded of this when I heard this morning that Jonathon Welch, who started the Choir of Hard Knocks, is handing the baton to a new choir leader). Even if you go along and sing quietly you will enjoy and benefit from singing and make friends too. For the ladies - join a Red Hat group - the right one should offer nothing but fun and friendship. For the fellows - a Men's shed as already suggested. Or join a service club - I have recently join a local Lion's club and am enjoying making new friends. Or do some volunteer work that you enjoy.
    None of these suggestions guarantee you will make friends or alleviate loneliness. Loneliness can be a state of mind, meaning you can be lonely in a room full of people.
    It's certainly not easy to walk into a room full of strangers and/or to make new friends as we get older - be confident, smile, show genuine interest in other people. Make the effort to stay in touch with people you know, by phoning them, emailing, inviting them for a coffee or a meal. It can be hard work but worth it if you enjoy the person's company.
    shirboy
    27th May 2019
    4:50pm
    When meeting friends & family give them a hug. Everybody loves hugs.
    Lucca
    28th May 2019
    12:56am
    BERRY UPSET

    YOU HAVE MY ADMIRATION. WRITE ANYHOW YOU LIKE MATE. THOSE THAT DON'T LIKE IT, CAN LUMP IT. KEEP ON GOING!
    inquisitive
    28th May 2019
    2:37pm
    How very sad. However, may I suggest (although I don't know all her circumstance) that there may be an elderly person or two who are also lonely that Lieselotte may communicate with. I know some areas have people who phone others who are housebound to check on them. Maybe she could start something like that, or join and make calls to others. in other words be a bit more proactive, instead of waiting for something to happen. Invite neighbours in for morning cuppa?
    Grammargirl
    28th May 2019
    3:47pm
    What a talented and compassionate person you are, Petra. I am approaching the same age as Liese-Lotte and was charmed and greatly moved by your documentation of her loneliness. I am most fortunate in that I still have a loving and caring partner, 4 adult children, 9 grandhcildren and 1 tiny great-granddaughter. However, I do understand that living alone can be sad and wonder if people who have additional accommodation would find it beneficial to share their home with siomeone who has similar interests and background. Just a thought!
    Teekyweeks
    11th Jun 2019
    11:06am
    So very true. Finding yourself living on your own after 50 years is hard to manage. People tell you to go out, join groups etc but sometimes that is hard to do. I just try to find things to do around the house and go to the shopping centre at least once a week. I am fortunate to see one son at least once, maybe twice a week and I so look forward to visits.


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