Are You Headed towards Social Isolation

Health Secrets

social isolation

Social isolation can be devastating to seniors

Linda Shomberg suffered a string of misfortunes which drove her into social isolation. This is her story…

Linda, 71 years old, had everything a wife can wish for: a beautiful home, a loving husband, a wonderful circle of friends and an apartment complex that could have financially supported them the rest of their retirement years.

Then, from out of nowhere, disaster struck. As they say, “When it rains, it pours” – that’s what Linda had.

Bernard, her husband, got afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease which ate up a lot of their savings and led to his death. Before he died, however, they became victims of online fraud which annihilated whatever was left with their finances. As if these were not enough, Linda suffered a stroke.

To add salt to injury, Linda faced a lot of foreclosures due to their unpaid obligations.

With her spirit broken and nothing left but old memories and a broken furniture set, Linda retreated into herself, fearful of another disaster that could engulf her in its wrath.

She closeted herself in her home, hardly venturing out, or talking to other people.


What is social isolation?

Social isolation is a state of complete or near-complete withdrawal from society; it is like shutting the entire world out of your life.

It is bad news for seniors like you and I. According to experts, its ill effect on you is equivalent to equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. You can get chronic diseases, go into depression, dementia, and even untimely death.

Young adults, resilient and with a lot of friends to help them out of the social isolation hole, can handle it better. You may neither have the stamina to crawl out of the rut you are in nor that many helping hands to pull you out – especially if you live alone.

In 2011 there were 11 million senior citizens (28% of people aged 65 and above) living alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While they may not be socially isolated, their situation predisposed them to be.

Living alone, together with health and financial issues, is one of the biggest fears among elderly people like you, according to a survey done by a charitable organization supporting people who age at home.

Social isolation is not necessarily a mental health issue but caused by a mind fed with imagined or real fears, i.e., loneliness, lack of mobility, health and financial issues, death of a spouse or a close friend, fear of getting injured outside of home, and many more.


Signs of social isolation creeping in:

Social isolation does not happen overnight. Like a single termite that finds its way into your home will soon become a colony of termites.

You cannot precisely recall what precipitated it, but you can feel it slowly embracing you when you feel these:

o  Difficulty in interacting with people;
o  Being annoyed by your regular circle of friends;
o  Frequently feeling anxious;
o  Not doing anything with a bit of risk;
o  Not caring about home and personal hygiene;
o  Want to be left alone, and not go out;
o  Disconnection with the world;
o  Blaming others for your misfortunes;
o  Not doing anything useful or productive;

If these feelings rule your life, do something before you are in too deep. There are no prescription drugs against social isolation. Help will come only if you make the first move. Do it fast because you are killing yourself every day.


How Linda got out from her social isolation:

Not wanting to be buried in a destructive world of her own making, Linda reached out to the local branch of a non-profit, volunteer organization, the Neighborhood Network.

The group provided her a volunteer driver for her doctor appointments and helped her with some of her chores like buying take her doctor appointments, helped her with everyday chores like buying groceries.

These little acts of kindness made Linda realize that there is so much in life than wallow in destructive self-pity; in too much negativity.

Linda is currently running a ministry at her church, the Blessing Bag, which provides food and other supplies to the homeless.

She has found her purpose again!

You don’t have to be a Linda copycat, though there is nothing wrong with doing volunteer work. You can do something else avoid social isolation. You can go to your favorite hairdresser and do a prim up job, go to the library and read a book, or find peace and solace inside a church (this is my favorite).

Whatever you do, always keep in mind that social isolation is a self-defeating dream.

Please help other seniors by sharing this. Better still, subscribe to my newsletter to get a weekly update of the exciting and bittersweet life of a senior.



How I Kept from Imploding

Health Secrets

salty breeze

Salty breeze heals

Last Sunday I was on the brink of imploding.

It can happen to you so stay with me as I unravel how and why I got into such near-death situation and how I got out of it.

There was a time when Sundays were special days. I, my wife and two children always had a special lunch together. In the afternoon we went out to do the groceries, or watch a movie. If my budget allowed, we went to the beach and had lunch there.

I am sure you know how it is with families who are close to each other, right?

Things changed when my wife died and my children were occupied with their studies. Having lunch with them was rare, going out for groceries was impossible, so was going to the movies or the beach for lunch.

As if things were not bad enough, they got married one after the after and moved out of our home. That left me a lonesome and alone widower.

It also made my Sundays blue, not red. I remember, a Sunday afternoon two years ago, I was alone at home watching TV but miserable. As if on cue, my daughter called asking how I was getting along.

Her voice startled me, yet made me so happy I cried. Between sobs, I told her I was feeling very lonely. Her call helped and, besides, she took me to dinner.

But I that cannot happen every Sunday, can it? And for some reason, some Sundays are bluer than most – like last Sunday.

Last Sunday started like any other Sunday. I had my regular breakfast, then started doing my regular Sunday chores. It was then I suddenly felt that something was amiss.

I don’t know what but I felt an emptiness in me. My brain seized and my chest started pounding like an oncoming locomotive. I tried lying down hoping a little rest can ease my anxiety. It didn’t.

I wanted to talk to someone. But who? I was alone at home and I didn’t want to drop in on any of my children. Besides, it was early in the morning and, I was sure, both were still asleep

“Oh, oh, this is bad. I got to do something quickly,” I told myself. But what?


What is imploding?

Imploding is the process of collapsing or causing to collapse violently inward – like that of a star that has reached the end of its useful life. When it collapses, it causes a supernova, which is thought to cause the creation of black holes.

You, me, or anybody else can implode when day-to-day pressures become so great squeezing us in and there are no means of escape.

No, you don’t become a black hole if it happens to you but the consequences are no less serious. It starts as harmless feelings of anxiety, to stress, depression, dementia or Alzheimer’s. From there, death is almost certain, if suicide doesn’t get you first.

The irony is that you can avoid from imploding if you recognize its symptoms. Unfortunately not many do. They just take them as part of aging. That’s why stress is one of the major health risks among seniors.

I am no great fan of self-diagnosis, but if you feel something similar to what I felt the other Sunday, do something before it’s too late. This is what I did.


How I kept from imploding:

sea therapy

Getting a sea therapy

After what seemed an eternity of weighing my options, I decided to do the thing I love doing – stress or no stress.

I drove to a seaside resort where I had my first dive. The 30-min drive was worth it.

The sea always strikes an emotional chord in me. My earliest memories were of chasing, with my elder sister, fiddler crabs directly beneath the window of our rented home which was partly on dry land and partly on the sea.

The cool, clean salty breeze cured me my juvenile asthma.

It is no accident then, that when I feel the world closing in on me, I head out to the beach before I implode.

The seaside resort I went to was my favorite. It is a scuba-diving resort, crawling with diving enthusiasts, both foreign and local, beginners and pros. And I know many diving instructors who can belt out stories as varied and enjoyable as a fishing buff.

It has a very nice restaurant with foreign and local menus and the staff knows me, and I, them. It makes me feel so much at home

But the reason why I love going there is that it is the only remaining resort nearby where snorkeling is at its best.

Unknown to most, except the enthusiasts, what makes a great diving resort is not the amenities on the surface but the presence and variety of life beneath. And in this aspect, the owners of the place did a great job.

Observing, sometimes chasing, various tropical fishes of all colors and sizes nibbling at the fauna on the sea floor is very therapeutic. They make me forget my woes and cares; makes me lose track of time and self. And it is a darn good exercise.

I stopped when my legs could no longer move my flippers. After almost an hour of snorkeling, I was tired but free of the forces that, a few minutes ago, almost crushed me in.


Going home stress-free:

After more than two hours, and a hearty lunch, I started heading home. I was tired but was free of the little devils that were pulling me down.

I was free of the stress that was choking me. In its place were vivid images of the wonderful life outside and around me.

Oh, I had several pictures, too, that would be mementos of how I changed what could be an awful Sunday into something that kept me away from a self-destructive path.

We are all unique and you may have your own way of dealing with stress that could make you implode. Whatever it is, it is only as good as how fast you can react when you sense these stressors creeping up on you.

Please help other seniors by sharing this. Better still, subscribe to my newsletter to get a weekly update of the exciting and bittersweet life of a senior.