Do You Feel Lonely, Isolated or Unvalued?
Are you spending more time by yourself than you’d like to? Have friends started to become ill or pass away? Are your children living out-of-state or trying to juggle their own children, careers and spouses, making it difficult for you to maintain a meaningful connection with them? Has retirement surprised you by bringing with it a chasm of loneliness and isolation rather than a sense of freedom and accomplishment? Has a loss of physical mobility made it more difficult to travel to or participate in social activities? Are you feeling depressed, afraid, or too proud to ask for help, and wondering whom you can depend on when you have to? Do you often feel very lonely and wish that it was easier to do the things and see the people that you love?
It Is Not Uncommon For Seniors To Feel Isolated
The older people become the more common it is for them to experience physical difficulties and social isolation. Unfortunately, our culture is not equipped to accommodate the needs of its aging population, and the go-go-go collective societal mentality makes many activities inaccessible to people with slower behavioral realities. Today’s working population is also overly scheduled with the demands of both children and careers, which was not typically the case for past generations. Families are becoming increasingly disconnected through time and geographical constraints, making it harder for seniors to feel physically and emotionally connected to and valued by their children and grandchildren. Retirement and the passing of friends also limit an already decreasing social environment and may come with strong feelings of grief, which can cause further isolation.
Thankfully, even if you’re feeling undervalued, lonely or at a loss about how to reconnect with the people and activities that bring you joy, support is available. Therapy can help you discover the possibilities that you may not know exist and provide you with practical solutions, guidance, and relief.
Therapy Can Help You Reconnect With Life
Like most things in life, you will get out of therapy what you put into it. If you are motivated to feel better and connect with others, therapy can be an extremely effective way to shift your perspective and find more activity and meaning in your life.
Your trained and experienced BPS therapist can provide you with a supportive and nonjudgmental environment to address the situations that are keeping you isolated. Together, you can take the time to really look at the issues and develop realistic, practical solutions to external factors, such as transportation, that are hindering your ability to engage with the world. You can get more connected with resources for seniors, and explore other ways to get out of your home and into the community.
Your BPS therapist can also help you identify, explore and address the root thoughts and feelings that are affecting your sense of self-worth, self-esteem and motivation. Together, you can work through the negative self-talk or internal reasoning that makes it difficult for you to do certain things, such as reaching out to friends or family, asking for help, or participating in activities that you once enjoyed. You can examine your strengths and the positive aspects of yourself and your life, explore ways to repair relationships and shift out of a self-defeating perspective and into one that is positive and full of possibilities.
Even if you’re feeling hopeless or helpless right now, it is entirely possible to make changes that can lead to a more positive and satisfying lifestyle. With help and a willingness to explore your thoughts and apply practical solutions, you can experience more joy. You can find ways to share your wisdom and engage with friends, family, and your community in more meaningful and rewarding ways.
But, you still may have questions or concerns…
I think that therapy could be helpful, but I’m on a fixed income and concerned about costs.
This is your life and wellbeing. Humans are biologically wired to be in relationships with others and, in isolation – whether by choice or not – you cannot live a truly full and joyful life. Addressing social isolation and related issues now can not only make you feel better sooner, but it can also prevent your isolation and negative feelings from worsening, which can lead to depression, anxiety and other mental and physical health complications.
Many people come to BPS having worked with other therapists who were not trained to work specifically with seniors struggling with social isolation or who they couldn’t relate with – which is a waste of time and money. At BPS, we’ll conduct an initial assessment and match you with a therapist who is trained and experienced to work with seniors suffering from social isolation and whose personality is a good match for yours. Once you find that good match, making a commitment to yourself may be one of the most valuable investments there is. Imagine feeling and functioning better now and in the long-term on a regular basis and ask yourself what that’s worth.
If money still is an issue, you can talk with your BPS therapist to see if they work on a sliding scale. They may also be able to help you find other lower cost resources in the community.
Therapy is for crazy people and I’m not crazy.
The vast majority of people who see a therapist do not have serious psychiatric problems. Rather, they are regular people seeking extra support and guidance so they can live a more comfortable, productive, and joyful life. The goal of therapy is to help you identify the feelings and situations that are keeping you from living the life you want to be living. It is a place to develop solutions, shift perspectives, and set and achieve goals. It is also a place for self-growth, reflection and constructing the life you want. Your BPS therapist can help you take active control of your thoughts, feelings, and actions, and support you in achieving all that you want at this stage in your life.
Therapy seems like a place to complain. How can it really help me feel better in my real life?
This is a common misconception of therapy and the therapeutic process. Although therapy will afford you a place to express all of your thoughts, concerns and fears, it is also a place to work on creating meaningful change. Your BPS therapist is there not only to listen, but to also point out things that you may not be able to see, to offer practical solutions and advice, and to support you as you work through difficult emotions and create real change in your life. A lot can come from therapy – if you’re willing to participate and engage in the process. With this willingness comes an immense possibilty to live a more fulfilling and active life.
We encourage you to schedule an initial assessment with Dr. Jan Hittelman. Jan will work with you to determine what your specific issues are and ensure a good match between you and a BPS therapist in terms of personality, style and expertise.
You can also check out our free, online therapist directory, which will match you with a therapist who has expertise treating seniors with social isolation issues.
Sunda Friedman TeBockhorst, PhD, LPC helped create the content for this page. Dr. Friedman TeBockhorst is a highly trained and experienced licensed mental health professional, who provides skilled therapy to seniors in a welcoming and nonjudgmental setting. She has been working with seniors struggling with social isolation issues since 2004.