Well, hello there. You’ve caught me at a rare vulnerable moment. I was just curled up in the fetal position sucking my thumb. Awkward… With Chloe in Germany, Glenn in Toronto and Nicholas at a friend’s house, I am… ALL ALONE. And the reality of that is crazy weird to accept. It gives me a microscopic taste of what it must be like to live alone and, perhaps, to be lonely.
I’m not saying the two are inevitably intertwined. I can think of many instances -especially when you’re young – where living alone would be immensely liberating. I think, however, that as we age and we learn to enjoy a house filled with noise beyond our control and constant companionship and camaraderie, it must be very odd to be without it.
It makes me wonder how lonely my mom might have been, living alone in Victoria without any family and only a few friends. It makes me think – not for the first time – how massively dysfunctional our society is, especially with regard to our aging parents and grandparents. In many other societies, they co-habit with their grown children and still fill an integral role in the basic family unit. Our Western fondness for independence is in fact quite isolating. It would be good to address this and do something about it.
A few years ago, I decided that it was time to “give back” and spend some time volunteering. I interviewed with a local seniors’ outreach centre and was trained to take part in their “telephone tree” program. It was one of many programs offered for seniors to add quality to their lives. It basically involved calling seniors from a list, identifying yourself and asking them how they were and what was new, referring any issues to a counselor for further investigation. Simple.
I have to say in my short time there, it was extremely rewarding, but heart-breaking as well. 90% of the people that I would call to check in on were so appreciative of the call and to have a little chat, it was awesome. The other 10% were so depressed as to be all but unreachable by the small amount of contact I could provide over the phone. Those days were incredibly difficult. I’d like to think I’d still be there now, but the government saw fit to cut funding within a year of me volunteering there and the program was without a home. I mean it makes sense to lay off 50 volunteers, right?
What I can tell you from my experience is that in less than 5 minutes a week, a total stranger can have a very real impact on the lives of seniors. I know. They told me. Imagine the impact a loved one could have. If you have a senior in your life or someone else you know that might be alone or lonely, I would encourage you to reach out to them in any way you’re comfortable with. It will not only enrich their lives, it will enrich yours.
Now, who gets to tell Nicholas and Chloe they have to live at home forever? s. xoxo