Posts Tagged ‘loneliness’

More men experiencing isolation in old age – BBC report

Oct 15 2014
Men are often reluctant to join clubs for older people, says the study by the International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK) and the charity, Independent Age. It predicts the number of older men living alone in England will increase by 65% by 2030. “When their partner dies, often a man’s social life shrinks,” said Independent Age chief executive Janet Morrison. The report: The Emerging Crisis for Older Men, says older women will still be more likely to outlive their husbands but, by 2030, growing numbers of men will outlive their wives. The analysis of recent data from the English Longitudinal Study on Ageing suggests 1.5 million older men will be living alone by 2030 – up from 911,000 today. ‘No visitors’ Older men often also have less contact with family and friends than women of a similar age, meaning they are often more socially isolated once their spouse dies, says the study. “The house was always full of kids,” 73-year-old John, whose wife died five years ago, told researchers.

“Women keep the family together and people rally around them”.

“When women die, people drift away from the man left behind.” Evidence suggests men and women experience social isolation in different ways, says the report, with men less likely to ask for support. Read the rest of the report here  

Recommended Film for older men: Song for Marion

Jul 18 2013

Song for Marion: this film has powerful lessons for older men

 

This is an intense, moving, ultimately hopeful film, and it’s a superb example of the bogs of anger and self-isolation that many older men get stuck in.

The film’s focus is an elderly couple, played to perfection by Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp.  One of the delights of this movie for us oldies is to see two great stars still in their prime as they themselves get well into old age.

Like me, you may remember vividly Terence Stamp as Sergeant Troy in Far From the Madding Crowd.  Here, as Arthur, there’s a powerful mix of character, strength, and decay.  Arthur has clearly spent most of his adult life in anger, resentment, and deep fear of opening up to others – even his son, convincingly played by Christopher Ecclestone.

One of the shocks of the film is to see how much Terence Stamp has aged: now he’s white-haired and balding.  It’s useful for us oldies in the audience to turn this back on ourselves, and give ourselves loving, acceptance as we age.

Marion, played by Vanessa Redgrave, is Arthur’s wife: she loves him as he is, and makes his life work: for example, she’s the one who keeps the family talking to each other.  As her health declines, we see one of the classic shipwrecks for older men: Arthur has depended on her social skills, and without them, he digs himself deeper into isolation and depression.

One of the few times we see Arthur cheerful is on his weekly night out at the pub with a few male friends.  But he doesn’t know how to reach out to them, and vice versa.  Arthur’s recovery from the shipwreck arises from unexpected sources, which I won’t reveal.

Some reviewers have disliked this film as sentimental: I believe that’s overlooking the real depth of the main characters and their interaction.  Parts of the film are annoyingly flimsy, but they at least soften the gut-wrenching impact of the central drama.  I’d urge you to see it, and don’t be ashamed to take a fresh handkerchief.

 

 

 

Living Alone and Loneliness::II. Enjoying Our Own Company

Jun 13 2013

… Choosing to Live alone without having to feel lonely.

Making more social contact through meeting other people is an important way to reduce the feelings of inner loneliness which we can all feel from time to time, and research shows that the more social support we have the less are the risks of unhealthy outcomes (whether or not we live alone).

If we are living alone, purposively creating and enjoying the social networks we want are essential for our wellbeing (for more see Stepping UP and Stepping Out) . However, periods of time spent alone and on our own can be also very rewarding for their own sake, the source of great personal satisfaction, and provide opportunities for much contentment and pleasure. Try some of these ideas:

1. Plan and make a special visit to somewhere you have always wanted to go to.

2. Cook yourself a special meal using a more complicated recipe than usual and celebrate making a special evening to enjoy on your own (The meal doesn’t need to include alcohol)!

3. Learn techniques like meditation or join a yoga class. Mindfulness practice and paying attention to your breathing, especially at the level of the tummy and watching your abdomen move with the breath can help your mind become less busy and frantic in just 5 to 10 minutes. Developing this practice over time the periods of feeling inner peace and tranquility will increase, regardless of whether you are on your own or with other people. To find a properly trained mindfulness teacher near you, go to http://mindfulnessteachersuk.org.uk/ – recommended organisations include http://www.breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk/

4. Cultivate qualities of loving kindness towards others, but especially towards yourself (this can feel quite strange to begin with – particularly if you are used to being self-critical!). Also bring to mind and practice absent healing for people you care about, and then the world in general. This is the easiest and most natural thing to do using your own breath to create waves of warmth radiating out from your heart, and relaxing and opening the heart increases your sense of connection with others regardless of whether or not you are on your own. “I am larger and better than I thought. I did not know I held so much goodness.” Try Jack Kornfield’s site for a safe and non-prescriptive approach  http://www.jackkornfield.com/2011/02/meditation-on-lovingkindness/ .

5. Keep a journal – take 20 to 30 minutes first thing in the morning to write down your thoughts and feelings, however jumbled or disorganised these may feel at the time. You may find that you begin to reframe living alone as a positive experience, and you can also begin to leave more of the difficult or negative feelings there on the page. This can help stop the habit of negative messages about loneliness or isolation dominating your life narrative, and continually running on and on in your mind. For more on ‘Words for Wellbeing’ visit http://www.lapidus.org.uk/ .

If you find that you are feeling lonely and miserable a lot of the time living on your own, you may not be depressed but it can be helpful to explore ways of breaking the negative cycle – check out Mind UK http://www.mind.org.uk/mental_health_a-z/7980_depression. Maybe it is also time for you to find a peer group meeting (including Men’s Groups). When you feel ready – ie you feel that there is enough safety in the group for you to speak – simply naming it can be a great source of relief, and help you let go of the lonely feelings. It can also be the beginning of intimacy with others, which actually can then support and reinforce positively your preference to live on your own.

Living Alone and Loneliness: I. Stepping Up and Stepping Out

Jun 13 2013

 Stats show that more men in their 40’s and 50’s are living alone – the Office  of National Statistics data records that 1.3 million middle-aged men in the UK are living alone. Part of the reason is due to the decline of marriage (down from 79% of men in this age group in 1996 to 69% in 2012), higher divorce rates, the social and economic situation (effecting work), and lifestyle choices – both men and women are getting choosier about who they want to live with!

Is living alone a problem for older men? Research shows that isolation is not good for us and loneliness can become an unhealthy experience, increasing the risk of mental health problems and depression in particular. However, there is also a difference between outer and inner loneliness, although of course the two are closely linked.

So here are ways to help explore both outer and inner loneliness, and to help make living alone not become a problem for us: Stepping Out and Stepping Out and Enjoying Our Own Company.

I. Stepping Up and Stepping Out … Balance your choice to live alone with getting out and about:

1. Start with small steps – If you live alone or you feel you are spending too much time on your own, break the habit by going out for a walk in your local area or town, and say ‘Hello’ or ‘Good Morning’ to some of the people you recognise (including shopkeepers and cashiers).

2. Make more of a habit of having short conversations with people you know – small conversations accumulate into bigger ones (including phone calls and email). If you are out of practice talking socially, start by asking people about themselves and what they are most interested in.

3. Try to have some face-to-face meetings rather than only talking on the phone -if you are in a new group or crowd, don’t be embarrassed if you are being mostly quiet, feeling shy, or having difficult feelings about joining in. This is something EVERYBODY feels at the beginning.

4. Care about your appearance when you go out, and especially what you wear – try wearing different clothes to express yourself personality positively. For encouragement see What Ali Wore http://alioutfit.tumblr.com/ , or explore ‘inspiring menswear’ ideas at  http://bloodwood.org/!

5. Join the UK Shed Movement http://menssheds.org.uk/ – Hang out with other men, relax and have some laughs, without having to talk a lot if you don’t want to, or do anything special together.

6. Think about the things that genuinely interest you – there will likely be social groups of like-minded souls to share your experience, values, and interests:

– Walking groups (http://www.ramblers.org.uk/go-walking/find-a-group.aspx),

– Laughing more (eg ‘laughter yoga’! http://www.laughteryoga.co.uk/)

– Being a Performer: get into song  (eg ‘Tonsils’ listing of 3,000+ UK choirs http://www.choirs.org.uk/), or dance (http://www.danceuk.org/ – and then there’s Strictly Come Dancing celebrity Len Goodman (aged 68) http://www.goodmandance.co.uk/ !)

– Learning, participating, and using your brain: Google ‘adult and community classes’ for your area, or for a self-help approach to learning join the University of the Third Age http://www.u3a.org.uk/

– Being a Campaigner: join the ageactionalliance http://ageactionalliance.org/ , and participate in the ‘Campaign to End Loneliness’ http://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org.uk/

– Being a Volunteer:  join the Royal Voluntary Service http://www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/. The RVS recently dropped the ‘W’ in its title, as it now has more than 6,000 male volunteers. According to RVS research 3 million men are interested in volunteer work in the UK.

– Sharing your life experience, special skills and particular passions: join theamazings http://www.theamazings.com/!

WRVS response to Health Secretary’s loneliness mapping announcement – Nov 2012

Nov 26 2012

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt today announced that local authorities will begin to identify areas where older people suffer most acutely from loneliness to allow them to tackle the growing problem of social isolation and its harmful effects.

“Loneliness amongst older people has been long overlooked, therefore we are delighted that local authorities will for the first time be mapping loneliness amongst older people in their areas. It’s only after knowing where people are lonely that we can tackle it.
“Loneliness not only has a hugely negative impact on people’s general well-being, but also on their health. WRVS comes into contact with older people day in day out whose main company is the TV, and without our volunteers may not see another person from day to day.
“It doesn’t have to be like this. David McCullough WRVS Chief ExecutiveSimple and cost effective solutions such as befriending, can help tackle loneliness, help older people to stay connected to their communities and prevent unnecessary hospital stays.
“Mapping loneliness is just the start. We would urge local authorities to signpost older people and their families to WRVS and other organisations to help solve the problem of loneliness and also to commission these kind of cost effective services.”

David McCullough, WRVS Chief Executive