Living alone, with company Living alone, with company

When children leave home, a time of change and freedom begins, which should be used to focus on wellbeing.

Advisors: Gloria Rivera Botero, psychologist, master’s degree in Mental Health
Martha Vanessa Rentería, gerontologist

It is normal that there comes a point in life when outings with friends are no longer as frequent as they used to be, and when children, for different circumstances, decide to start their lives apart from the family nucleus. When this happens, adults may have a bittersweet feeling: on one hand, the shared happiness of seeing their family’s growth, but on the other hand, uncertainty, and missing others.

According to gerontologist Martha Rentería, this condition is known as empty nest syndrome. “All human beings go through processes of adaptation at different times in life, from the first day of school until retirement. Elderly adults are not so inclined to make abrupt changes, such as leaving their home environment. Therein lies the importance of interaction with families and maintaining emotional ties,” she comments.

But the impacts do not necessarily have to be negative. Getting older also means enjoying a freer life. Aspects such as the possibility of being a grandparent, if you have grandchildren, and helping raise them, are highlighted. In addition to having a better handle on independence is the ability to start new life projects and even have the time to do multiple activities and cultivate various passions that you could not do before due to other commitments.

“In general, the family should not forget that, in their day, the elderly played the role of parents, so they should support each other and make sure it is always under good conditions,” adds Rentería.

With the best attitude

According to Gloria Rivera Botero, psychologist with a master’s degree in mental health, getting older can be accompanied by feelings associated with loneliness, fear, and stress, precisely because of certain changes that come with the years. “Being alone can reinforce the thought of not being able to take care of yourself, that you already need a lot of support. The absence of family members or company accentuates that,” the specialist points out.

The best thing, states Rivera, is to seek emotional and social support, strengthening family ties. If you are totally alone, you should ideally be in an environment where you can feel useful, where you can identify with and contribute to your community.

One way to achieve this is, for example, by telling stories, by talking about what you see on TV or in a movie, by talking about the last book you read, and even by showing past habits or teaching different skills such as cooking or carpentry.

Likewise, the psychologist suggests that it is valuable to start a therapeutic process where the person’s feelings are validated, without judging or being invasive. “With the elderly, you have to be respectful of their emotions and have an attitude of complete listening and understanding,” she concludes.

The dilemma of sudden loneliness

Factors such as widowhood or mandatory isolation due to the covid-19 pandemic are sudden situations that are difficult to anticipate and can cause dramatic changes to many older adults’ lives. Given this, specialists recommend supporting their mourning process by boosting their support networks, meetings with children, grandchildren, loved ones, and friends. Also, make room for hobbies and interests. For isolation, technological alternatives that allow affective bonds to be maintained are important. Seeking active communication, even by screens, can bring positive mental benefits..