Don’t allow loneliness to be a part of your retirement package
Loneliness is a growing problem—an epidemic, say some. And it can hit retirees if they aren’t careful. In the workplace, we’re usually forced to mix with people as part of the job. In retirement, you choose to mix or not.
The challenge is not to choose loneliness, which is becoming an international problem:
In the UK, the recent appointment of a Minister for Loneliness recognises that it’s a significant problem. In making the announcement, then Prime Minister Theresa May spoke of research that found that more than ‘9 million adults [in the UK] are often or always lonely’.
Loneliness, it was reported, ‘is more harmful than obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day’ . . . and ‘costs UK employers £2.5 billion per year’.
At about the same time, a former Surgeon General of the United States, Vice Admiral Vivek H Murthy said, ‘Loneliness is a growing health epidemic. We live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s.’
And a little earlier, just before Christmas last year, the Red Cross published a national survey that found that one-in-four Australians have loneliness as a regular part of their lives. For 7%, it was loneliness ‘all the time’ and for 16% ‘quite often’.
Robert Morgan described the Australian scene in this way: ‘If you go around to all the pubs I guarantee there will be five guys there who are totally alone and their best friend is the barman.’
Connected but still alone
What is fascinating about this ‘epidemic’ is that, as Murthy said, we are better connected than at any other time in history. Our digital age and media has made sure of that. But it isn’t a substitute for flesh-and-blood people in our lives.
We do connect with people online, but if we don’t know the individual it’s a connection based on information we choose to share, which may not be the real picture.
Jeff Goins sees another weakness with online friendships. ‘When I say something that makes you uncomfortable, or when you offend me, we go our separate ways more often than not. And this flies in the face of how people actually make friends.’
Loneliness can be debilitating. Can make life miserable. Can bring depression. Your best defence is to take the risk of such things as: trying to get to know new people; joining a group; volunteering to help others; or . . .
Loneliness is a growing problem, but with what Murthy calls ‘strong, authentic social connections’ it doesn’t have to be a part of your life—or your retirement package.