Friday Flash Poll: Are you lonely?

Is enough being done to highlight loneliness among older Australians?

Friday Flash Poll: Are you lonely?

Last week, we ran a touching photo essay about loneliness in old age.

In response, many of our members shared their own stories about loneliness or those of a loved one.

It left us feeling that not enough is being done to highlight the plight of older people who have lost partners or who are feeling alone in their homes, aged care facilities or just feeling separate from the communities in which they live.

Ardnher wrote: “I have a friend who lives on her own. She says she is not lonely, but that is just a facade. Loneliness among 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.”

Paddington added: “Loneliness takes many forms. Some people are restricted by their inability to travel or go out much. Others have limited funds to do anything 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.

“It is sad and should not happen but don’t accept it, do something about it.”

A recent study revealed that one in two (50.5 per cent) Australians feel lonely for at least one day a week, while more than one in four (27.6 per cent) feel lonely for three or more days.

More Australians aged 56 to 65 felt lonely than other age groups. Interestingly, those aged over 65 said they were the least lonely.

And while feeling alone is hard enough to manage, it can also lead to serious health issues. Lonely Australians reported higher rates of social anxiety and depression, poorer psychological health and quality of life, and fewer meaningful relationships and social interactions.

Another study found that loneliness is a bigger killer than obesity and should be considered a major public health hazard.

According to the almost 4 million people and 218 studies into the health effects of social isolation and loneliness, 50 per cent have a higher chance of premature death compared with obesity, which increases the chance of early death by 30 per cent.

Loneliness also increases a person’s likelihood of experiencing depression by 15.2 per cent and the likelihood of social anxiety increases by 13.1 per cent. Those who are lonely also report being more anxious during social interactions.

Loneliness, while not an election issue, did make its way into the campaign. The Coalition, in particular, has promised $10 million to tackle loneliness among senior Australians.

But what should they do with that money? Maybe you can offer some guidance by taking part in our Friday Flash Poll …

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We’d also love to know how you cope with loneliness, or how the Government can best direct the $10 million to tackle loneliness in the comments section below.

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    COMMENTS

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    MJM
    31st May 2019
    10:19am
    I have lived alone since 2005 I travel OS on my own take road trips exercise and enjoy my own company. Years of caring for useless men and always being last in the family dynamic it is my time. I am liberated free independent and I never am lonely. It is insulting to me when people feel sorry for me. The man who has a friend who says she’s not lonely go to hell its not a facade. I feel sorry for women who married young and have spent their whole lives in a relationship bubble missing out on knowing themselves as a whole entity. I have two grown children and we are in full communication I work with elderly and people with disabilities who are an inspiration. So for all out there attached to the hip to another get out and really experience who you are!! Because if you live long enough you will be alone.
    Agnes
    31st May 2019
    10:35am
    MJM ... you go girl !!!! We get one life enjoy it. It certainly seems , now, you are determined to do just that.
    jackie
    31st May 2019
    3:46pm
    MJM, I love my freedom and my own company.

    Some people can be surrounded by friends and family but still be lonely.

    We all live once and are on borrowed time.

    Live life to the fullest. Wallowing in self pity is not living.
    Gammer
    31st May 2019
    11:03am
    I have been widowed for 14 years and since retiring 6 years ago have been volunteering at an aged care facility (helping with the social activities). I don’t want to intrude on my children’s family lives so volunteering has given me a way of occupying myself and it is so appreciated; the staff appreciate the help and the residents love having interaction with us, too. It also makes me more appreciative of my own good health, plus my ability to put a smile on the faces of the residents makes my day worthwhile!
    Paddington
    31st May 2019
    11:21am
    Grandparents are important to children, so why would you be intruding?
    We drive twice a year to spend a few weeks with our youngest and her children and husband and they come to us at Xmas. In between we video call occasionally.
    You are part of the family, so unsure why you feel like it is an intrusion.
    Good that you have the volunteering but sad about your family.
    My mum was not an intrusion, she was part of our family, as was my father.
    I think we need to get back to the importance of family if people are being excluded from their children’s and grandchildren’s lives. There should be connection without it being an intrusion.
    Paddington
    31st May 2019
    11:10am
    Smile at others and start up a conversation when appropriate. Use all your capabilities to enrich your life. Not everyone is mobile so look at what you have and can do rather than your limitations. Take the initiative and contact the family instead of waiting for them to reach out to you. Plan a holiday, shop online for birthdays and Xmas, write your memoirs or a novel or short story, create something, help others, and so on.
    Don’t wait for someone else to make you happy. Be proactive!
    Mrs Hedgehog
    31st May 2019
    11:46am
    $10 million won’t go far, but maybe the government could set up a rooms somewhere where there is easy parking and a few facilities such as a nearby cafe and use the room for an ‘ideas, craft and skills exchange’. Come for a chat and a cuppa and teach or learn something new, no cost, or a small donation involved. You do not need to be a qualified teacher to pass on ideas or help someone with a problem. Different areas would most likely organise different activities for mornings or afternoons, these could range from physical exercise, dance, the many craft activities to book clubs, cooking and gardening ideas or cards, or simply a chat but always with time allowed for social interaction, both (all) sexes welcome. A note in with the council communications (please let it cover several council areas in larger towns and cities) would get to everyone in the areas involved.
    KSS
    31st May 2019
    1:49pm
    Mrs Hedgehog, most of your suggestions already exist in one way or another.
    The thing is, many dont/won't go.
    Hardworker
    31st May 2019
    11:56am
    Unfortunately a lot of people who are now in the older age group were raised with the idea of marriage and being part of a couple. This can actually make you complacent and fearful about making your own friends and going out by yourself or with friends rather than your partner. We need to force ourselves to get over these barriers and realize it is not about other people looking after us, but us looking after ourselves. You can look up a lot of information on activities in your local area just by asking Google, but I guess there are a lot of older people out there who fear computers and don't know how to use them. Assistance from the local library or neighbour may be the answer here, if someone can sit with you and help you look up say where the closest Bridge players are for instance. There is also the issue of transport. The Not-For-Profit Communify organisation can provide transport to and from some activities. You need to ask around your neighbourhood and find out what other people do for company and not rely on family like in the past because our children have enormous pressure on them these days to earn money, especially if they have children and their relationship did not work out. Would you want them to suffer by staying in a bad relationship like maybe you were forced to? Not me. I want to help my children have better lives than I had. You just have to accept that they really do appreciate when you can help them out in an emergency and child mind etc. That actually makes me feel needed. Life changes, it has changed for us and our children. Get over it and just appreciate what you have got and learn to help yourself more and don't rely on others. You just need to try it. It worked for me and it will eventually work for you if you work at it. MJM you and I really know where its at! Those who are lonely just need to try a little harder.
    KSS
    31st May 2019
    1:53pm
    I have to agree Hardworker. There will never be a conga-line of 'new friends' making their way to anyone's door. It is up to the individual to make an effort.
    Thoughtful
    31st May 2019
    5:14pm
    Yep - Get up, dress up, turn up and never give up. Sick of the generation of duchesses who never worked and hence were never made to do anything they didn't want to do, or the dukes who had the little missus see to their every need and now consider themselves unable. NEVER stop the process of life-long learning. Hopefully this is a self-limiting problem.
    Billv
    31st May 2019
    12:21pm
    I've been a widower since November 2017 and after 48 years together I'm finding it very hard to cope and the tears come very easily with the smallest reminder or reference to my wife and marriage. I've searched for support groups in my area without success to date, they are few and too far away from me. I've since rejoined the workforce for a couple of hours a day as a Traffic Warden at school crossings. Having pass by chats with the kids and parent/s helps a little. Have no friends and this makes the weekends even harder. I've had thoughts of ending it all but being a chicken doesn't help. So I make do on a day to day basis.
    Steph
    31st May 2019
    12:53pm
    Billy, I know how you feel, as I am sure many people in this forum do. My husband died of brain cancer in 2011 and I still cry about the things we missed out on together. I have come to accept that some amount of grief and sadness will always be part of my heart. I also find that the best way to feel better is exercise. It doesn't matter what kind, just moving the body makes the mind and heart feel better. I stopped trying to build a substitute social life also, because people's reactions made me feel worse. They either said things like 'you should be over it by now' or they didn't care, or they wanted to talk about their own grief over the top of me. Now I am happy to live alone, do the things that make me happy, without being reliant on anyone else to make me happy. My advice - go for a walk every day. When you feel sad, go for a walk. Take
    Billv
    31st May 2019
    1:05pm
    Thanks Steph. I will try the walking bit. And I guess the first thing is to accept that it doesn't go away. I'm on anti depressants but sometimes it doesn't feel like they are working.
    Thanks again for your response, very much appreciated.
    KSS
    31st May 2019
    1:59pm
    Billy there have been many research projects that show exercise can be as good as antidepressants or even better. Get your shoes on and just go. Try and walk in nature if you can, the local park, the beach, the woods, national park, whatever is near you. Quite apart from your mental health it is great physical exercise in its own right. You could even look out for walking groups in your area or even start one yourself. Have a look at a site called meeting place and see the kind of groups
    MacI
    1st Jun 2019
    6:45am
    Hi Billy, My wife and I have been married for 48 years. The thought of losing her doesn't bear thinking about and I have no idea how I would cope or what I would do in those circumstances so please forgive my ignorance if what I am about to suggest is way off base.

    My wife's brother who is single retired 2 years ago and after considering all his options he decided to move into a Retirement Village. He reckons it's the best decision he ever made. There are other retirees around him who take the time to say hello and have a chat and there are lots of activities going on in the village that he can choose to engage in (or not). For him he is satisfied with wood carving with a group of men once a week and attends a couple community gatherings during the week for a meal. Otherwise he is happy going for a walk around the village each day with his dog and stopping for the odd chat. He also goes for the odd outing in the village bus.

    We spent a lot of time exploring the Retirement Villages in the area to get a handle on their vibe (younger villages tend to have younger retirees and so are a bit more lively) and of course the financial implications. There is no doubt that from a purely financial point of view buying into a Retirement Village is a poor investment so it comes down to whether or not one is prepared to pay the cost for the lifestyle on offer.
    Nan Norma
    31st May 2019
    12:49pm
    Right now I am trying to persuade the council to continue funding me for the hire of a venue so i can keep running a seniors group every week, as i have for 14 yrs. Many of the women came to the group lonely and wanting to make friends. You don't make friends playing Bingo or the pokies. Most seniors have limited funds to pay for outside entertainment.
    This is a problem for many groups. It is expensive to hire a suitable venue. If governments seriously want to do something to combat this problem then provide some funding for the hire of meeting places. Support transport to get people to these places. I've had many women wanting to come to meetings but unfortunately have no transport. This is really a bad situation. .
    With most women now working, adult children generally are only available at the weekends nowadays.
    It would also help if if those people willing to run a group were given some help and support. My success in running groups has only come from years of experience.
    libsareliars
    31st May 2019
    5:13pm
    I wish we had a laughter club where i live in Orange, i think that would be great.I am 63 and have been widowed for 20 years. I have 3 children, work 3 days a week in a job i love, catch up for a cuppa with friends and my family 3 times a week, have a gorgeous dog that makes me take him for big walks and i still occasionally feel alone.

    31st May 2019
    6:50pm
    I've been lonely my entire life. People ostracize those like me, who are far from average, hence different, in most respects.


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