Have Yourself a Lonely Little New Year

Posted on: Thursday, January 18th, 2024
Posted in: Unplugging | Leave a comment

Kayaking alone can be cool. Living and aging alone can feel more like slow drowning.

As a season, winter brings on more staring, sitting, pondering. So perhaps the squall of loneliness articles appearing all over is just cold coincidence. But maybe not. Without question, a storm of cultural shifts is causing folks to go it alone: Social media; screen dependence; political division; busy-ness; growing single statuses, more. It’s rather sad.

As a successfully sometimes-single person who previously spent decades giving my children wide wings (once we were done nurturing deep roots), I know the feeling of isolation. I also see it in my parents, people their age, and aging communities. These things REALLY become relevant when people are, like, disabled, dying, getting dementia, or unable to leave their residence.

Check out these headlines and subheads that recently fell in front of me:

  • Home alone: America’s crisis of isolation…Modern life downplays the importance of neighbors. (by Seth D. Kaplan, LA Times)
  • Where has community gone?…We need to interact with people different from ourselves. (by Kris Potter, of South Haven, MN)
  • Aging ‘Solos’ Need Support (by Katy Read, Star Tribune)
  • What a big difference small talk can make…Don’t be a stranger. Say something. (By Deborah Malmo, of Plymouth, MN)

I could summarize the articles. But the headlines rather speak for themselves and, frankly, it’s kinda distressing. Suffice it to say that this quiet, lurking issue will only worsen. People are living longer. The percentage of elderly living alone keeps growing. And the social hubs of the past (church, local cafes, family gatherings) keep decreasing in popularity and availability.

  • We, Robot?

Naturally, technology provides the problem yet sometimes a potential solution. An AP article by Terry Spencer details a “chatty” companion robot in testing mode that converses, “jokes, plays music, and provides occasionally inspirational quotes.” And…“leads exercises…gives reminders to take medications and drink water.” Host video calls and contact rellies and doctors? CHECK!

The thing sizes up like a small table lamp, yet remembers discussions, interests, and previous chats, whether about weather or … the meaning of life.

This professional unplugger recoils at such prophetic possibilities. And yet, if a cyborg can lessen loneliness, that’s a cautious sign of hope.

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