One of the most frequent issues I hear older women discuss is increasing loneliness and tendencies toward isolation as they become older. There are a variety of reasons this can happen. The reasons are often situational, but they can also originate from our personality traits and personal choices. Loneliness is often tied to the loss of loved ones, living alone and being shy and introverted; however, even the most extroverted and social women encounter issues of loneliness and isolation.
Isolation takes many forms. We can become isolated as a result of where we live. Living in rural or small-town environments may foster isolation, especially if we live alone. Moving to a new area and leaving a familiar geographic or cultural environment certainly creates challenges for us as we age, often resulting in both loneliness and isolation. Sometimes our interests isolate us from being social—women who love to read and spend lots of time reading, artists, musicians and others who require a lot of alone time to fulfill their passions may find themselves alone quite a bit.
Of course, many women experience time living alone as an experience of solitude and contentment rather than an experience of loneliness. And it is not uncommon for loneliness and contented solitude to live together in the same woman at different times. It is largely about context and circumstances. Living in one’s own company can be a pleasing experience when the choice to do so is yours. Even so, there can come a time when living by oneself no longer feels nourishing—it feels like a good thing gone sour.
Loneliness can also be a result of our personal choices. Many women experience a diminishing lack of confidence as they become older. They doubt that they are interesting, likable or worthy of attention and love. This can prevent older women from reaching out to form new friendships or, especially difficult, finding a romantic partner. While there are women who are completely “done” with being in relationships, others long for some form of intimate companionship but are afraid to try. We all make personal choices and we all deal with loneliness and isolation in different ways. Let’s discuss our experiences.
- Do you experience much loneliness in your present life and how does this compare with your experiences of loneliness in the past?
- To what extent are your experiences of isolation due to situational factors or a reflection of your personal choices?
- Do you find being alone nurturing or painful? What is your experience of time alone?
- Do you have any meaningful friendships? Intimate companions? Romantic partners?
- What do you want to be different in your life and how are you going to make that happen?