Winter months in Maine can be very long. For many Mainers, this means months spent, in large part, alone. Due to the weather, they may find it too dangerous to get out of their homes. Some people are not troubled by being in “their own company.” They may like the quiet, calm atmosphere and enjoy spending their time reading, chatting on the phone, watching television or playing games such as Sudoku or Solitaire.
For others, however, weeks upon weeks spent alone can be dispiriting and can lead to negative feelings, deep loneliness and depression. If you know someone who lives alone in your neighborhood, might they welcome a phone call or a visit? This is a great time to reach out to those who may be suffering from loneliness and find ways to keep them engaged.
AARP The Magazine conducted a survey in 2010 of its readers regarding loneliness. Over 1/3 of those who responded were categorized as lonely. Loneliness can also lead to adverse behaviors. Over time, lonely individuals may withdraw from activities that could actually keep them involved in social functions such as attending religious services or participating in community organization engagements.
Loneliness can also cause health problems. Those who are lonely often stop eating enough or even drinking enough fluids. Feeling disconnected from people can make them feel disconnected from their own self worth.
A lot of community organizations such as Area Agencies on Aging have programs that help match volunteers with neighbors in the community who would welcome a visitor. This can be a very rewarding experience. Even light socializing including a phone call or a brief in-home conversation can help alleviate depression and loneliness. Sometimes the greatest gift of all can simply be the gift of spending time.