Are you missing your usual clubs and activities before lockdown?
From cradle to grave the shifting sands of time has a habit of leaving many of our senior citizens more than a little disorientated and out of place. Our present cohort harkens back to the baby boomers – an age of looking forward; the dawn of the NHS and vibrant young people during the 50s and 60s dancing to the Beatles and T Rex whose turn it is now to find a niche during our current times and we know some will be struggling. For some, family and friends would have moved out of town; spouses and contemporaries passed away; people retire from work freeing up the long hours of uncertainty, all equally a shock to the system, for some the universal consequence of reaching 65 and onwards. Though granted, a sense of belonging can be accumulative as time passes: the people we meet, the friends we make i.e. human connection, time can equally confiscate our companions too.
The experiences of later years are just as significant as childhood memories and there is no less a need to feel that same sense of anticipation a child has going out on family trips or playing with friends when a similar fulfilment should be a staple for the elderly too. Although we are all susceptible to loss, no one deserves to feel like they don’t belong. Where connection to others in later years is a vital component to feeling this sense of belonging, interaction and shared experiences are what people really seek when they attended clubs and activities. Before COVID-19, for many of us it was a chance to develop those all-important friendships people really cherish growing older.
Awareness of mental health is crucial because depression and anxiety will also affect physical health. Incidence of depression is sometimes 2 to 3 times higher in this upper age bracket who are just as deserving of meaningful interaction as those who are much younger. The virus lockdown has had a destabilising effect on certain demographics around NE Essex: those who live alone especially the older generation. Some who were once very active have described their social life as like being marooned on a desert island without a compass so in the long run, they will need to return to face to face contact with others having interests and hobbies in common if only that they find their bearings once again. We are looking forward to the day when social events and clubs can restart again but only when it is safe to so.
In the meantime, bringing back self identity through a sense of belonging can happen in a number of ways so that we stay in touch with the people who matter. Happily, much of the following is happening online in some shape or form to improve this spirit of collectively as mentioned.
- Society needs to adjust – Remember old age can be just as golden as the younger years and society should celebrate strengths whatever age someone may be. Encourage colour, music and magical experiences. In the same way many are still up for a knees-up (although now virtual) whatever the situation is like in the outside world.
- Listen and observe – Communication is key here. By sharing parts of our lives with others we are allowing them to look outwards instead of inwards, likewise, to have greater awareness of the environment and our place in it.
- Develop meaningful ties – Making new connections with chums and buddies will reduce fear of being left alone if we are seeing people regularly on video, sharing digital platforms or by tuning into a favourite club activity which has switched to online sessions e.g. Zoom, Facebook and Skype.
- Invest in diversity – We must remember people come from different walks of life, have their own individual stories to tell and when we meet people from different backgrounds within the community, it so much more enriching to focus on the positives of diversity so that nobody feels left out.
- Reject treating loneliness as a weakness – Loneliness can happen to anyone and isn’t something people have necessarily brought upon themselves.