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September 15, 2016

Loneliness and Me: Sharon’s Story

I just want someone for me: a friend

Being alone should be a choice

“I live with my son and his family. I am not physically alone but I feel lonely sometimes. They work and have friends to see, places to go. I just want someone for me. A friend.”

Isolation is a dreadful thing; nobody wants to be alone and there are so many people that are. I started running my own group so there would be a place for older ladies in the area to go. We started with 10 ladies but now we are up to 30. It is hard to keep it going; we have no funding and none of the ladies have transport so my friend and I have to go pick them all up. It is their lifeline though; there is nothing else for them.

Most of the ladies that come to the group speak little to no English and this really makes them dependent on families or friends to help them with everything: appointments, shopping and just generally getting out. They like to be with people who speak their language; they do not feel confident with other people. Lots of these ladies used to work in tailoring; with other women who spoke the same language. Then when they retired they are with their families who also speak the same language. That’s why they have never learnt English. My 94 year old mother in law ran a shop for 60 years and only learnt ‘thank you.’ She tells me she used to work all the change out in Punjabi in her head. She never had to learn English because her children did and so they helped her.

I would say the majority of ladies live with their families. Their families think that because they live with them they are not isolated, but that really is not true. Their families get up early and go to work, or drop the children off at school, and then they are not home until past five. This means that they are left alone for eight hours or more with no one to talk to. When their family do come home they are busy; making dinner, sorting the children and so they still have no one to talk to. It can be really isolating. They don’t always like to admit it though because they are worried it makes their families look bad. Their families have their own lives and they think they are doing the right things but it can be very hard.

We need more for older people to do; there is temple and that is fantastic but there needs to be more. We need more funding and better transport in order to keep things running. One lady who comes to the group told me that she sits every Sunday just thinking about how she is going to get out on Monday. It’s what keeps her going. We need more facilities and support for older people, they are just left. One lady that comes to the group is only 54 but she has lost her husband, two sons and she has breast cancer. She has nothing but the group, we are her only support. The community is all round when an event happens, such as bereavement, but once the funeral has happened you are left to cope and it can be too difficult for people.

I would love to throw a party every now and again for the ladies in the group and others like them. I would love to take them on trips and give them things that are for them. We do not have the funding though.

People do not want to be lonely or by themselves. They want to be with their peers; talking and reminiscing. They want to watch people coming and going not staring at four walls. They do not want to be a burden on their families; they want to be out in society enjoying themselves.