I remember from my childhood, a couple from our church who loved my sister and I. It started very casually as riders on the bus the husband drove every Sunday taking us to church. As the friendship developed, both my sister and I were invited to their home and we spent quite a few Sunday afternoons with them. Yet, this husband and wife never had any children of their own.
In my high school years one of my teachers and I became good friends. Her husband also worked at the high school and I was dumbfounded when she clearly shared with me, the last thing she wanted was children of her own. She said, “I don’t want little finger prints on my coffee table or on my refrigerator.” I had a really difficult time processing that!
As a young person, it never occurred to me people would “choose” to not have children! My teacher friends opted to have dogs they cared for like their children. My friends from my early childhood worked and had active lives without any children of their own and even now seem very content. But it makes me wonder about the possibility of loneliness as they age.
In one conversation about this topic the question was raised, “What do people do when they get old and have no children or extended family? Who will take care of them?” In our modern world, we have become so involved in climbing the corporate ladder, family dynamics have changed, and changed dramatically! Besides that, there is a breakdown of family relationships as grown children move away from their parents, sometimes across the country which creates a feeling of “a childless” life when the parent/grandparent doesn’t see their children or grandchildren for months at a time.
We do have modern technology which enables those who are technically savvy to “chat” via Face Time or Skype. But something is lost in this. What about those seniors who do not have any idea how to access this feature or don’t even have a computer in their home? This “tech age” is growing a significant percent of senior population who is fighting depression and excessive loneliness.
Statistics are showing many seniors feel isolated as the wedge between family members grow. They feel unimportant and pushed aside. It’s creating a loneliness epidemic with staggering numbers. According to some statistics, 18 percent of our seniors live alone, and nearly half deal with loneliness on a regular basis!1
Our culture has created the concept that “Mom and Dad need to be in an assisted living facility or nursing home because I don’t have the time to care for them properly.” While the concept may be held with good intentions, it is way missing the mark. These seniors want interaction with family they know and love, not strangers who tend to their basic needs, but rarely touch the depths of their souls like personal children and grandchildren can. Our seniors are missing out on a very special time in their lives. They have so much to give.
Additionally, we as a society, especially within the family unit, have so much to gain when we include them in our everyday lives. They have a lifetime of memories and love to share, but we are stealing this precious time from them, causing not only loneliness, and depression, but an early death.
So I challenge you to take a good look at your parent(s), and grandparents. Could you include them in your lives on a regular basis? Can you make them feel loved, valued and worthwhile? You’ll be richer for it and they will have a grateful heart!