Are you ever lonely? In a recent post by Chip Conley, cofounder of the Modern Elder Academy, he wrote: “Both the UK and Japan have appointed Ministers of Loneliness. Dr. Ruth was recently appointed by the state of New York as the nation’s first Loneliness Ambassador.” ( In addition to feeling terrible, loneliness apparently is very bad for our health, similar to the effects of smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. Women Over 50: What Is Loneliness for You?

Why Are We More Lonely?

So how do we explain this apparent explosion of loneliness in some countries, but not all, in the world? I suspect Covid exacerbated what was already festering in many people. And at least in my experience, the frequency of in-person gatherings has not returned to pre-Covid levels. Thank goodness for Zoom, but it does not replace a warm hug and face-to-face conversation. Staying home has become the norm for many people. It is easier, and for many it may not provide a sufficient sense of social interaction.

Also, many people live in a scary world right now. For some, their world as they’ve known it seems to be disappearing. Populations are shifting, sexual norms are in flux, the interest in organized religion seems to be waning. However you attribute the cause, our climate seems to be changing, and there doesn’t seem to be any firm plan for how to deal with it. Politically we are at loggerheads with one another, with civil discourse increasingly impossible. What is the outcome of all this? We may feel very alone in our confusion and our fears.

When I Feel Lonely

Of course, our personal situations can cause loneliness too. Even though I’ve lived alone my entire adult life (well, except for my kitty cats), the times I’ve felt lonely have fortunately been few and far between. As I think back, the most poignant times were, ironically, when I was with someone, ostensibly romantically, and it just wasn’t what I wanted. I felt both intense loneliness and a deep longing to be alone.

I also felt real loneliness a couple times when I first moved to the UK for work. The only person I knew was a college friend who lived in London, a two-hour train ride away. We didn’t have cell phones then, and calls would have been difficult and expensive. These days, I sometimes feel fleeting loneliness on holidays when all the ads on television show happy families warmly embracing one another and joyfully celebrating the day.

Coming back to the original question, do you ever feel lonely? If so, what are the situations when the feelings are most intense? If you have feelings of loneliness, would you say they are getting more or less intense and frequent as you get older? How do you account for whichever way you answer that? There certainly are major life events that tend to occur more often as we get older. We may lose one or both of our parents. We lose a spouse or partner, and some of our closest friends begin to die. Often, these events are deeply sad and may lead to a sense of loneliness. If you are more lonely these days, what life changes can you attribute to this feeling?

How You Can Combat Loneliness

One of the primary antidotes for many of us to feelings of loneliness is talking about it with a trusted friend, but some people aren’t open to discussing feelings of loneliness. Admitting that you’re lonely in the rugged, individualistic culture we have in the US is seen by some as a real failure. A potentially wonderful gift you can begin to give your friends is permission to talk about their loneliness by talking about yours when you are feeling that way.

Because of the potentially serious effects on our emotional and physical health, loneliness is not something we should ignore, decide to just live with, or assume it will go away sometime on its own. So, what else can you do if you are feeling lonely?

Three Suggestions To Help

  1. Make a list of four friends or family whom you haven’t spoken to for some time. Put in your calendar to call one of them each week for the next four weeks.
  2. Think of something you used to do in a group of people that you enjoyed. Rejoin that group, if possible, or find a similar group to get involved with and take an active role. For example, volunteer to be a member of a committee. If there are in-person events, attend several and commit to meeting one new person at each event.
  3. For many years I did long silent retreats on Maui. Inevitably, after a week or two, I would get very unhappy and not be able to work through it. Each time when I talked to one of the teachers, I would be told to look out as I was doing my walking meditation, not to look down. And right in front of me, were wide open spaces with beautiful plants and flowers and trees! Very quickly I would begin to feel better. So, when you’re feeling unhappy and lonely, look out to the world around you. See the beauty everywhere.

So, Women Over 50: What Is Loneliness for You? Do you have suggestions that work for you? Please let us know in the comments below. Remember, you don’t have to continue to feel lonely. There are things you can do. We’re all in this together.

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