The Friendship Doctor

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9 Practical Tips If You're Home Alone

Many people live home alone without family or friends.

What resources are there for people without any family or friends? 

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I am 63. My husband brought me here many years ago. It is rural and here, family is everything—which is nice—but I have none. My life from the beginning was similar to a child in an orphanage. I was cared for by someone I guess but never had any modeling for family. There was no love, no touching, no hugging and no intimacy.

I became my own parent by the time I was five years old. I could not, cannot develop relationships but worked all my life and working kept me from being totally isolated. However, now, I no longer work and have severe arthritis that pretty much limits me to my apartment. I read and find things to do but it is getting pretty hard. 

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The thing is that I cannot locate any type of support system for seniors who have no one. I know I am not the only person like this. I would love to return to Massachusetts where there is a little less emphasis on couples. It bothers me that, for example, an Area Agency on Aging, talks about all sorts of things but the depression, the loneliness, the sense of a life forgotten for people who don't have the requisite husband, sister, grandchildren etc. 

Why is this not dealt with? Or perhaps I am looking in the wrong places. One of my most hated answers to any psychological issue is "Stay close to your friends and family etc." Another recent major annoyance is at a hospital or doctor's office when they ask you for next of kin and I say I have none, they argue with me. Well you must have a friend then. No I do not. They actually get mad at me. 

Is there a resource anywhere for those of us for whatever reason have no family and could not establish friendships but who are getting old and scared and spend weeks at a time alone.

Signed, Leah

 

ANSWER

Dear Leah,

For a variety of reasons, it sounds like you are in a very lonely and isolating situation. You must be a remarkably resilient woman to be able to take care of yourself to the extent you do. 

Since I don't know the particular community where you live, I can only make a few generic suggestions to help you connect with others: 

1) Does your town or a larger city nearby have a program for seniors? Sometimes there are outreach programs that provide emotional and logistical support for homebound seniors. 

2) Can you get any help from the Arthritis Foundation? Do they offer any in-person or online support groups? 

3) Are any programs or services available from religious groups in your community—even if you aren't of the same religion? 

4) Can you call your state office overseeing the Area Agency on Aging to inquire about resources that may be available to you? 

5) Can you reconnect, even if it's only occasionally with colleagues from work or friends from where you lived in Massachusetts? 

6) Since you found this blog, are you taking advantage of the internet as a way to connect with other people? 

7) Is there any chance of your moving back to Massachusetts while you are still a relatively young senior? 

8) Would you have any interest in finding out about a co-living situation where you might be able to live with another unrelated adult for mutual support? I realize this isn't easy to orchestrate and would require a thorough background check. 

9) Since telecommuting is becoming increasingly common, is there any kind of part-time work you can do from home?

I hope that one or two of these ideas may be helpful and that other posters will chime in with any suggestions I've missed. Be assured, your situation is not unusual. There are many people in similar situations, many of whom visit this blog. I hope you'll continue to post and exchange here because I know you can be helpful and sensitive to others in similar circumstances.

Warm regards, Irene

 

Some prior posts on The Friendship Blog that may be worth reading: 

 

 

 

 

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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