Loneliness ain’t no stranger. We have all felt lonely at some point in our lives, and it does not necessarily mean that we had been alone at the time.
Researchers maintain that loneliness is becoming more common in the United States. Since 1985, the number of people in the U.S. with no close friends has tripled. Some of the causes include the rise of the internet and ironically, social media.
Loneliness is much deeper and more horrifying than simply being alone. Especially when old, it can be scary and devastating. This is why in 2017, a 90-year-old woman from Missouri, Wanda, decided to fight it.
She lived all by herself with no friends and her children had lives of their own far away from her. Therefore, she wrote a heartbreaking letter to her neighbor who lived down the street, Marleen Brooks.
The letter read:
“Mrs ? Would you consider to become my friend?
I’m 90 years old- live alone.
All my friends have passed away.
I’m so lonesome and scared.
Please, I pray for someone.”
When she found it, Brooks sent a photo of the letter to KTVU’s Frank Somerville and also shared it on her page with the caption:
Came home to this note from a lady that lives down the street from me. Makes my heart sad, but on the bright side it looks like I will be getting a new friend.”
The old lady had lost one of her sons to cancer the previous year, and her two other sons have lives of their own.
She also suffered from poor health, required artificial oxygen, and struggled with congestive heart failure, and osteoporosis.
Yet, her letter came to the right address. Brooks and her daughter took a batch of cupcakes and went to visit Wanda.
“She’s such a sweet lady! And she was over the moon when we came over. ”
Brooks added that during their visit, Wanda had said that she had to do something, as she had lived there for 50 years and didn’t know any of the neighbors.
She thanked them for coming and was extremely happy to make new friends, as she was no longer cut off the rest of the world.
“I also made sure that Wanda knew she can call us at any time and that I’ll be back to spend time with her! I’m sure Wanda and I will have some great times.”
“There are so many others out there who are lonely just like Wanda. I would ask that maybe you consider knocking on their door and saying hi. I know it would mean the world to them. And who knows, maybe you’ll make a new friend.”
The National Academy of Sciences reported that social isolation increases the risk of mortality in people aged 52 and above, by affecting their mental wellbeing and putting a strain on their fragile hearts.
Old people need friendship and companions even more than youngsters, as people become more vulnerable to social isolation as they age.
Therefore, reach out to the elderly in your neighborhood whenever you can, and you might virtually change their life. You will be surprised how wise, kind, funny, and loyal friends they can be.
Furthermore, note that loneliness is a state of mind, and being physically alone is not a necessary nor a sufficient condition to experience loneliness. One can experience a lonely state of mind while in your company, at work, at home, or in a marriage.
For that reason, Dr. Stephanie Cacioppo, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience, advises people to stay connected and express gratitude.
Do something nice for others, collaborate, and volunteer to help those in need. Engage with people on different levels and various topics, listen to what they have to say, and share positive energy.