|Zolitude is a place in Riga, Latvia|
I have almost never lived alone in my life. I left home at 18 and went to university, where I lived in halls ("living in college" as we called it then where I went, in Durham). Just before I finished university my father died suddenly and unexpectedly, and I went "home" for the summer. And then got married, as did my two siblings soon afterwards. There's bound to have been a connection, but none of us has felt like exploring it over the years. We had two children each. My marriage and my sister's ended after some years (we did try), and my brother's has lasted, with some hiccups. Then I did live alone for a little while, but not exactly. My son lived with me, and by the time he went back to his father, at fifteen, significant other and I were setting up home together. We have lived together ever since, and have been married for 14 years. Now, significant other works in the UK every summer (we live in France) and this year was away for nearly three months. He is away again, for only ten days this time, teaching a half-term intensive course. And yes, I have been lonely. What to do about it? Not turn down invitations to go out, is most of the answer. I have been doing that too often in recent times, because I am usually happy at home in the evenings, reading and writing and so on. Today I am going to the cinema with a new friend, and this is a Good Thing.
Loneliness among old people is a great problem, at least in this Western world. I know old people who are cheerful, friendly and sociable. But they are in the minority. Health problems may cause some of them to be negative, but talk of symptoms can be a kind of hobby too, and one that does no good. My uncle, in his eighties, has hobbies, such as model plane flying - he used to go fishing too and he was part of a dance club, all people of similar age. He has had some quite serious health problems recently, but has remained positive and cheerful. I saw him two weeks ago at a family wedding, that of his grandson, and he was very much the laughing raconteur - he had his moment on the dance floor too. My mother, on the other hand, whose health is not bad, is relentlessly negative - but let's not go there.
Most of us don't have to be lonely. Some old people say they are lonely because their families never visit them. I say to them - maybe your family would visit you more if you were more positive when you did see them.
Let's think about preventing loneliness. Human beings are designed to live in groups. The others in those groups may not these days share our actual household, but we need the contact they give us. If we don't have it, we are likely to become bitter and negative. Don't let it happen to you, as I am determined it will not happen to me.