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By Tom Blake
The effects of loneliness on single seniors is a growing concern. Studies indicate that loneliness has been linked with a higher risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. A May 1 Cigna study stated, “There is growing evidence that loneliness can kill.”
Those are scary thoughts for single seniors, many of whom acknowledge being lonely. Last month (April 13), I wrote an article on how seniors combat loneliness.
Today, I share responses to that article from four aging-well, single seniors, who discuss how they cope with it.
Les Jones, 92, of San Clemente, said, “In 1944, while serving in the Navy on a destroyer escort during the Normandy invasion, a German U-boat torpedoed my ship. My lower back was damaged. I received a Purple Heart.
I have lived with that damaged back for 74 years.
This Memorial Day, I won’t be lonely; I’ve been invited to represent the United States at the WW II Memorial for the Presentation of Wreaths ceremony in Washington, D.C. Plus, I will be an honorary grand marshal in the National Memorial Day Parade. I also had this honor in 2017.
If I had not been active and forced myself to keep moving through the pain, I’d be in a wheelchair now and would not be out interacting with people.
I was widowed two years ago, losing my best friend and wife of 49 years and nine months. I look at the empty chair where she sat in our living room and it tears my heart to pieces.
To combat loneliness, I surround myself with positive people and force myself to keep moving, although at times, the back pain is debilitating.
It’s important when you are single and alone, to have a good place to go where you know people. I go to the Dana Point Yacht Club for friendship.”
Stella, in her 70s, of Newport Beach, said, “Years ago, a man I met from Czechoslovakia told me: ‘Loneliness is an emotion. It can be overcome. You don’t have to be lonely. Do something else. Distract yourself. Pick up the phone, take a walk, sing! Don’t choose loneliness.’”
In April, Stella left loneliness behind when she walked the famous El Camino Santiago de Compostela trail, which crosses northern Spain. She met many interesting people from all over the world.
Sandy Watts, in her late 60s, from Sonoma County, lives alone in a small uninsulated cottage surrounded by grapevines.
She said, “The ‘disadvantage’ of being at peace with being alone is that I sometimes like my own company more than the prospect of ‘dating.’ I try to find mixed groups where I can get to know people of all ages and backgrounds naturally.
When I’ve attended functions and singles’ dances alone, I’ve pretended that someone was meeting me there. Standing alone is the first challenge. But, then it is good to ‘get over oneself’ – and think of the others, who are likely as uncomfortable as I. Learn about others, ask questions, invite someone to get a drink, or food, or whatever. Sort of like finding one’s own ‘Cheers Bar.’”
Cliff Gross, 65, a widower, of Laguna Hills, has a unique way of dealing with loneliness. Cliff is the volunteer commissioner of a 12-team NFL fantasy football league to which I belong. Most team owners have been in Cliff’s league for 25 years; we are all close friends.
Cliff hosts a pre-draft meeting, the actual 14-round draft and the post season banquet at his home. From early September to the Super Bowl, he is in contact with the 11 other teams by email at least twice a week and often by telephone as well. On Sundays, team members can gather at his home to watch NFL games.
During the off-season, he organizes frequent “beach parties” at Hole-In-The Fence in Capistrano Beach for team members and their significant others. He organizes camping trips to the Sierras. And, almost every Friday afternoon, he and five or six of us play bocce ball at Doheny Beach.
“This is my passion,” Cliff says, “our league members are the greatest group of guys on the planet. With them in my life, I don’t have time to be lonely.”
The Cigna survey also revealed: “Respondents who said they have more in-person social interaction on a daily basis reported being less lonely.”
That theory is reinforced by the comments from the single seniors included here. Frequent contact with friends and acquaintances is a critical step toward combatting loneliness.
Tom Blake is a Dana Point resident and a former Dana Point businessman who has authored several books on middle-aged dating. To receive Tom’s weekly online newsletter, sign up at www.findingloveafter50.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more of our 2018 Spring Aging Well special section HERE: