IT’S 4:45 A.M. AND another day quarantined at home. Even though I have nowhere to go, I still get up early. It’s one of my favorite times of the day. This is when I go downstairs to the kitchen, make myself a cup of tea, toast some raisin bread and read about what’s happening in the world.
Later, Rachel and I will go for a walk and then have breakfast together. This is how we now lead our lives—sequestered in the house—away from friends and family. It’s made up of insignificant daily activities: cooking, cleaning, reading and exercising.
I’m not complaining. I’m grateful that I have someone, like Rachel, to help me get through these trying times. Having her by my side makes the mundane actives more enjoyable. I enjoy cooking together. Such activities no longer feel like work. Maybe they’re right about married people living longer than those who are single.
I think about all the elderly people who live alone, without a friend or loved one to share their day. For most of them, they have a life much worse than mine. They’re separated from the things we take for granted.
When I think about my new life today, I think about my elderly mother. I now have a better understanding for how she must have felt, spending time alone in her house, not able to go anywhere, waiting for me, my sister or a friend to visit.
Maybe something good will come out of the coronavirus and we’ll learn a valuable lesson—about the dangers of social isolation and the loneliness that the elderly face. It can take a physical and emotional toll. And it’s not just the elderly who feel this pain. It can affect people of all ages.
According to a 2018 survey by Cigna, loneliness levels have reached an all-time high. Nearly half the people surveyed reported that they sometimes or always feel alone. Four out of 10 also reported that their relationships are sometimes or always not meaningful and that they feel isolated.
Friends and family are one of the best cures for this disease. If you know people living alone, this a good time to reach out to them to make sure they’re okay and have everything they need.
Today’s quarantine could be a glimpse of what our lives will look like as we grow older. But life doesn’t have to be that way. In retirement, we should take the necessary steps to make sure social isolation and loneliness doesn’t happen to us by, say, moving closer to family members or good friends.
Dennis Friedman retired from Boeing Satellite Systems after a 30-year career in manufacturing. Born in Ohio, Dennis is a California transplant with a bachelor’s degree in history and an MBA. A self-described “humble investor,” he likes reading historical novels and about personal finance. His previous articles include Lost and Found, Keeping My Balance and School’s in Session. Follow Dennis on Twitter @DMFrie.