Q. I am 85 years old. My husband died two years ago after a 65-year marriage. I’m still very sad and lonely and bored as well. I drive but do not like driving far or at night. My children live nearby, and I see them regularly, but they’re very busy with their own children and careers. They’re concerned about me and have suggested that I move into an independent living facility. I’ve visited a few and have no interest. Can you advise me?
Sandy H., Aventura
A: Thank you for reaching out. Your loss of your husband’s companionship, and perhaps close friends, can make this a sad time of your life. But your question suggests that you want to do something about it and that is a wonderful place to start.
Loneliness is one of the most common issues I hear about directly from seniors as well as from their adult family members who are concerned about them. It can lead to depression and apathy, which in turn can impact the quality of your sleep, consistency of good nutrition and ultimately result in impaired health.
But loneliness doesn’t have to be your new set point. If you’re willing to make new connections and keep an open mind, you’ll likely be surprised at how many options you have to choose from.
Here are just a few suggestions:
▪ Volunteering is a great way to meet like-minded individuals. These days, there are organizations such as Volunteermatch.org that help match volunteers to worthwhile causes based on a person’s interest and geography. There’s bound to be an opportunity that will appeal to you whether it’s at a medical facility, library, museum or community nonprofit.
▪ Do you have a local community center? At the Pinecrest Community Center in South Miami, for example, I’ve observed first hand just how much is going on in terms of lectures, classes, group walks and even card games for members of all ages. It’s a great opportunity to take up a new interest.
▪ Do you still love to learn? The Bernard Osher Foundation formed the Lifelong Learning Institutes in 2000 and now funds education programs for those 55+ at many universities throughout the U.S.
▪ Grab a friend and get tickets to a local theater production or just go out for a meal. There are car services such as Red Cap that can transport you using your own car. You can even have them do some errands for you while you’re enjoying yourself.
▪ Mealtime can be an especially lonely time. Have you considered hiring a companion a few times a week who can accompany you to do errands and help you prepare dinner?
▪ Finally, since I received your question via email I’m assuming that you are comfortable using a computer. Perhaps owning a tablet device would help relieve occasional boredom with access to the Internet, online games and the ability to talk to your children and grandchildren via Skype. There are many “apps” for music, television shows and games that you can enjoy wherever you are — at the kitchen table, outside, or while visiting your grandchildren, who will think you’re one cool grandmother!
There are many local classes and private instructors that can teach you a few tricks of the trade.
Nancy Stein, Ph.D., is the founder of SeniorityMatters.com, a local caregiver advisory and referral service for South Florida seniors and their families. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.