Many are sadly depressed because they feel so lonely. Because they feel devalued as they age and they lose their place and function in society, they find it difficult to initiate contact with others and build relationships. They don’t call people or set up lunches, or email others because they think that they are not attractive enough or they may be rejected. They wish people would drop by or call them and when they don’t they feel unwanted. They don’t realize how much other people are like them and appreciate any contact for it affirms their worth. James Houston writes about the social experiences of a lifetime – of innumerable causes for feeling lonely, being misunderstood, falsely judged, envied – that are common to all of us. For some, being lonely, is akin to helplessness. We feel unknown because we are unrecognized for who we think we are.
“Dejected and brooding, some lonely people mourn over a defeated self, an unsuccessful self or even a dead self. With such helplessness, paralysis sets in; everything appears to be fatal, all in a state of flux. For without hope that reaches into the future, the present closes in upon a depression in which today is a temporary blur, the past forgotten and the future blocked. This time distortion induces a dominating sense of meaninglessness. Boredom spreads its anonymity, and we no longer have any inducement to be innovative, creative and venturesome…. Yet loneliness can be a force for good. It can be reinterpreted as solitude where we can create an inner space for God, for the cultivation of a contemplative life. This can deepen our inner persons, energize our creative intuitions, give empathy for those lonelier than ourselves and above all demonstrate that the real Christian is never alone, when God’s nature and ‘Immanuel’ is truly ‘God with us.’ This is profoundly and eternally ‘a social life’ in all its fullest meaning….Death is a great cause of depression, since having no prospects beyond the grave makes our mortal life so ultimately meaningless…C.S. Lewis enjoyed growing old, writing to a friend a month before he died, ‘Yes, autumn is the best of seasons and I’m not sure that old age isn’t the best part of life.’..As the apostle Paul affirms, ‘Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.’ As a result, ‘we do not lose heart’ (2 Cor.4:16). (James Houston and Michael Parker, A VISION FOR AN AGING CHURCH, p.182f.)
Older age gives us the leisure and the permission to cultivate our relationships with God and others. We become more appreciative of our loved ones. We become more involved in their inner lives, to encourage, nurture and love them. However this requires taking the initiative and not waiting for others to reach out to us. The Letters (Epistles) of the New Testament are the product of the apostles communicating with their friends. I find that I have taken more seriously my responsibility to my children, and to the friends of my youth. Email, and long-distance telephone calls, are so much easier to stay in touch. I realize that all our peers are facing the same challenges as I do. It is hard to be lonely when you are part of a community of faith and hope and love that values your staying in touch with them and takes an interest in their daily lives.