IMG_1002When we moved my Aunt Jean to Salem eight years ago, she chose to live in the “Big House” at her retirement community rather than live in a stand-alone apartment on the same grounds. She said, “I want to be where the action is.”She’d had wonderful friends in Florida, but after my Uncle Frank died, she found she was eating way too many meals alone. The TV was no replacement for Frank. Due to her increasing isolation, she was starting to feel depressed.

Her situation now isn’t perfect. Although she will soon be 88, she wishes there weren’t so many old people living in the facility. She says the row of walkers that get lined up along the wall at mealtime is depressing. She gets tired of being around people who complain about their aches and pains. The food is mediocre, and the activities director annoys her. A man who still drives his own car asked her to go out for dinner and a play one night, and she said, “Why on earth would I want to do that with you?” (He didn’t ask again.)

Old age can be a rocky road, especially when you lose your spouse. It’s impossible to turn back the clock to a happier, healthier time. Aunt Jean knows that, so she’s making the best of it. She says that being around people (even the annoying ones) is better than being alone.

Recent studies show that isolation leads to depression, and people who are isolated die earlier than people who are engaged with others on a regular basis. My dad always said, “God didn’t create us to live alone.” He was right. We are social creatures, and in order to survive we need other people just as we need food and water.

If you are spending most of your time and energy caring for someone who cannot contribute much to his/her own care, please find a way to get out of the house and do something with other people. Socialization will bolster your spirits, and sharing a little laughter with someone else may help make your journey a little less rocky.