Do you live in one of the 28 per cent of Canadian households that according to the 2016 StatsCan census have just a single occupant? If you do then you’re one of the 14 per cent of Canadian adults who live alone. StatsCan further estimates that approximately 1.4 million elderly Canadians report feeling lonely or unhappy. Often living alone causes or exacerbates these feelings. If this sounds like you, read on – I’d like to relate a true story about me.
My wife and I separated in 2008. At first I was fine since my younger daughter was still in high school and lived with me half of the time. However, she eventually headed off to university. Suddenly the empty house wasn’t so great! My wife sensed that I was struggling and gave me a cat to keep me company.
Then came the years of 2013-14: my father passed away; I was forced to leave the Mount Martin Ski Patrol after 11 years due to an old baseball injury; and I retired after 35 years in the nuclear industry. Things started to go south. I often felt lonely and mildly depressed, and was drinking too much, mostly to help with sleep. I knew I was slipping but didn’t do anything to reverse it.
Finally, my doctor dropped the hammer: if I didn’t immediately cut down on the booze I wouldn’t survive many more years. It was the wake-up call that I needed. With the help of family and friends I got the drinking under control and immediately started feeling better about myself. I’m on good terms with my wife although we’re still separated, and I see our two daughters often. To keep busy I joined this paper’s Editorial Board, signed a small consulting contract with CNL, spent time on the board of directors of the Community Association, and even started curling again this winter after a 20-year hiatus. It was a close call but I managed to turn things around.
So if you are feeling lonely, here are some suggestions that may help:
- Keep your home as bright as possible during the day; better yet spend time outdoors if you are able.
- Limit the time spent on social media; it’s far better to interact with others in person.
- Understand what makes you lonely; enjoy your own company; focus on the benefits of your independence.
- Keep your mind active with a hobby or reading; don’t watch too much TV. Try meditation.
- Volunteer doing something you enjoy.
- Regular exercise of any kind will help with your overall well being.
- Rely on family and friends when you need someone to lean on.
- And finally, by all means talk to your health-care provider for professional advice.
I wish you well in coming to terms with your present circumstances – we’re all in this together!