It is possible, due to a variety of reasons, to find yourself without a companion in old age. Things may be worse for you if you are troubled by some chronic sickness. But in all difficult situations you can boldly say ‘’The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.
What has motivated me to write this piece was the reality of the situation I observed in a conversation I had with an old man who lives in a village at Nkurakan, near Koforidua in the Eastern region of Ghana when I visited him with one of his sons who is my in-law.
The old man was living alone in a cottage without a wife, child, or grandchild. It wasn’t that he had never married or had never borne children but that simply was the situation he was in.
He had lost his wife, and all his six children were living in other towns with their children, and none was prepared to live with the old man in the cottage. They cannot leave town to stay in the rural area.
The old man fetches water by himself, sweeps his compound and prepares his own food. He has no companion, except some few people in the surrounding cottages who visit him once in a while.
Though he visits his children some of whom are married he does not spend more than a week with any one of them.
I took the opportunity to ask the old man during the visit ‘’so what will you do if you fall sick in the night?’’
He just laughed at my question and answered, ‘’It’s God who cares for me. I normally don’t fall sick.’’
‘’Old man,’’ I don’t want to be pessimistic but one day when you fall sick it may be a problem for you. You are growing older and may not always have the same strength to care for yourself,’’ I advised him.
‘’Don’t worry, my son, my life rests in the hands of God,’’ he told me.
In an answer to a suggestion I put forward his son said the question of sending this old man to a home for the aged to be cared for is totally out of the options. At least his presence on his land helps keep thieves and encroachers away. Moreover he will not consent to such a move.
Is this old man facing this problem of loneliness just because he lives in a cottage? Are old people who live in towns and cities immune from this problem of loneliness? Certainly not, considering the facts I have listed below.
- Death of Spouse
If you lose your spouse you certainly will be left alone. There are moments you will remember having shared together but cannot share with anyone else and this will definitely overwhelm you.
A widower above 60 years can re-marry if he wishes and can afford but the Bible advises widows above 60 not to re-marry for their dedication to Christ. The loneliness created by the death of a spouse is indeed overwhelming.
- Death of Children
It is possible for all your children to die before you, leaving you childless. It has happened to some people and it’s not an easy thing to live with.
Though having children is no guarantee against loneliness in old age, in some instances it mitigates the negative feeling.
After a long time loss of contact, a lost child may one day re-surface to visit his or her aged parent to bring home some relief.
Having no child at all is an act of God which is beyond human understanding. Never let this worry you if you are one because you can never change the situation.
- Neglect of Responsibility towards Children
If you do not care for your children whilst they are young and they grow up with resentment against you, unless the unexpected happens do not expect them to visit you when you are old, wherever you may be.
- Cruel Nature
If you are naturally cruel and show no sympathy towards people or are vindictive, your actions may drive people away from you including your own children.
In that situation, nobody will draw near you, not even in your old age.
People who don’t know you may initially draw near to you but sooner your nature will pop up to drive them away from you even if you have millions.
A millionaire once stuffed his kitchen with drinks and food during Christmas time, expecting people to come and visit him so he could serve them. Nobody visited him and later he confessed this in a church.
- Absence of Contemporaries
In old age it is possible to have lost all your contemporaries, people with whom you attended school, or worked with when younger. Some might have been dead; others might have relocated to other towns or areas and you may find yourself left alone.
SUGGESTIONS FOR COPING WITH LONELINESS
Many old people are in this unsavory situation. Many have already lost their classmates or age mates with whom they could remember the past together.
This piece of writing is not a theoretical exercise. It comes with practical suggestions which can help old people cope with their loneliness.
You’ll soon grow old if you are not already old, so it will help you too. Many people like you are afraid of growing old for a situation like this to prevail in their lives. But when it comes how will you cope with it?
Some of the suggestions are given by Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen, a writer in Vancouver, Canada which I find ideal to relate to this article. Laurie writes ‘’She Blossoms’’ books and blogs at www.theadventurouswriter.com.
Having Children is no Guarantee
Like I earlier stated, Laurie too believes that having children is no guarantee of not being alone in old age.
She relates that her 40 year-old sister hasn’t talked to their 68 year-old mother in over 10 years and doesn’t think that will change before her mum dies. Her mum did not do anything wrong or bad—just she is mentally ill. She certainly does not deserve to be cut out of her daughter’s and granddaughter’s lives.
Based on what her sister had done Laurie believes no matter how many children you have there’s no guarantee they’ll want to talk to you when they are grown.
- Create Your Own Family
The writer advises that you create your own ‘’family’’ and don’t count on your kin to keep you company in old age.
You cannot rely on your children because when they grow up they may not stay in the same town with you. Some may travel to live in another town or city. Others may travel to live and work in another country or continent.
It is possible for one child to become chronically ill or even die before you. Another child may prefer to stay with your other partner if you are divorced.
So try building non-family relationships which is easier and deeper than family relationships.
- Never Let One Person or Thing Become the Centre of Attraction in Your Life
Laurie advises that to cope with being alone in your old age you should cope with all of life’s ups and downs and create a strong network of love and support.
You should cherish friends and neighbors around you because if you rely solely on your spouse for support and you lose him/her, you’ll find yourself lost and lonely. If you rely on only one career for life’s fulfillment you’ll be lost and lonely if you should lose your job. Also if you hope on your children but they find opportunities to travel then you’ll be lost and lonely.
- Share Your Experiences
To add to the above suggestions by Laurie I also believe that sharing your experiences with the younger generation shall keep them coming to you for advice. Experience is the best teacher; though a lot of the youth today fail to heed the advice of the elderly which some refer to as being archaic and not relevant to the present technological age. Despite that you’ll still get people who are level-headed to listen to you if your ideas are relevant to their needs.
There are times when people with certain technical knowledge are retained in business after their retirement, to help train the younger ones.
- Avoid the Worship of tin-gods
There are parents who show excessive love for one out of their many children, or even for a lone child. I think this comes naturally and can be likened to the agape kind of love which God has for mankind.
But this agape kind of love for a child can have dire consequences for you in old age because when the child is not with you or is dead, you feel the void and feel lonelier. You cannot bear the loss easily should the child die before you. Never worship any of your children as a tin-god.
Do not also allow yourself to be obsessed by any material thing in your life, for the loss of it could affect your life in old age. For example you may rely too much on your car for even short distances which you can walk. Such total dependence on material things has many disadvantages and should not be relied upon.
- Draw Nearer to God by Prayer
I say confidently and by instinct that the best antidote to loneliness is to draw nearer to God by prayers. In old age you are supposed to be more spiritual and more prayerful. By prayer you will be communicating with God, who is the deliverer and helper of all, and a strong refuge for the weak and old.
By communicating regularly with God you will feel subconsciously that you have somebody just beside you to complain to if you have any worries, somebody out there who is ever ready to help you. In fact it is true and you will never feel lonely. I believe the old man I spoke to has this intuition to be so confident about God’s care.
But the state of your mind can allow you to feel lonely only if you allow yourself to think that way.
When you are old and weak try to pray with Psalm 71 always and see the result.
With regards to people like Laurie’s sister, their behavior is rather unfortunate that they can turn their back on their parents who brought them up, for no apparent or trivial reason.
Laurie’s sister should try and visit their old mother and help her in the smallest way she can to put some smile back on the old lady’s face before she dies. This advice goes for all unrelenting grown up children whose actions are similar to that of Laurie’s sister.
Please share your views.
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