I have had a lot of friends

March 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

I just received an email from Marc, a man in his fifties that I interviewed a few years ago about his experience of living alone. He gave me permission to post his email here. He writes:

 I am going through some of the problems you describe in one of the pieces; isolation, depression, lack of energy.The worst part is the isolation; without that I think the other two would improve a lot.  And you would think that isolation would be the easiest of the three to overcome, because the other two are notoriously difficult.

 But it is amazingly difficult.  All the more amazing because I have lots of friends and have always been the kind of person who helps out, joins groups, volunteers, works on the newsletter, or even serves for years as the leader of the group.  Strangely, it does not seem to help.

  It is so hard that I am tempted to write “I have had a lot of friends” instead of “I have a lot of friends.”

It seems like the best ones are far away, either geographically or from other causes.  They have other relationships and are very busy, and many don’t even answer the phone, ever.  Some are dealing with huge life problems such as dead or demented parents,financial, medical or other emergencies, and so on.

  As a result I have been taking many long walks by myself, for a long time.  It does not feel good. And again, it feels strange, because I have always (at least since college, a long time ago) been the sort of friend people can talk to when they have problems.

 You may be familiar with the book “Audacious Aging” edited by Stephanie Marohn.  Raines Cohen, one of the contributors, is a big advocate of co-housing,which of course promotes inter-dependence, the theme you seem to be exploring in your own research.


 Elena again. Co-housing is often indicated as the panacea of isolation and more. But is that really the case?

 The experience of 80-year old Judith,  a fervent co-housing advocate, sends another message. Judith convinced some of her closest friends to live together.  She then told me that one of her friends discovered to have a fatal illness. As a result. Judith became her main caregiver until her friend passed away. The experience was so hard on her that she gave up her passion for co-housing and now lives in senior citizen building.  Does this mean that segregation for age is the new answer?


§ 2 Responses to I have had a lot of friends

  • Nick Beliov says:

    Elena, kudos for creating this blog, I think it is badly needed, as living alone at an older age is a rising trend and has many implications to society. It is interesting that older people in other countries tend to live with family, and in the U.S. it seems that many older people live alone. This raises many questions and your great work is answering many of them. Keep up the good work!

  • Paul-Kealoha Blake says:

    I look forward to following this blog Elena. Thank you for creating it.

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