It’s difficult making new friends at the best of times. Making friends as an elderly person is even harder.
But a neighbor in California just showed us that we can all do something a little extra to help older people combat the isolation and loneliness they experience by becoming their friends.
Marleen Brooks of Missouri came home to a heartbreaking note from her neighbor. The 90-year-old from down the street wrote to her to let her know she was lonely. She asked if the two of them could be friends.
Brooks then shared the note with a news anchor at KTVU, who shared the note on his Facebook page.
Here’s what the note said:
“Would you consider to become my friend.
I’m 90 years old – live alone.
All my friends have passed away.
I’m so lonesome and scared.
Please I pray for someone.”
Brooks wrote the following caption which was also shared by the news anchor:
“Came home to this note from a lady that lives down the street from me. Makes my heart sad, but on the bright side looks like I will be getting a new friend.”
Brooks went over to her elderly neighbor’s house in the evening to introduce herself. She brought cupcakes.
After the meeting, Brooks wrote to the news anchor to let him know how it went. It was shared on his Facebook page.
“She’s such a sweet lady! And she was over the moon when we came over.”
Here’s what the 90-year-old woman, Wanda, said during their visit:
“I hope you didn’t think I was stupid for writing you, but I had to do something. Thank you so much for coming over. I’ve lived here for 50 years and don’t know any of my neighbors.”
It’s sad to think that someone has lived somewhere for 50 years without getting to know her neighbors. This happens to many elderly people in our communities who struggle with being perpetually alone.
Brooks said that Wanda told her she has three sons and one of them died last year of cancer. Another son lives nearby and the other far away. Wanda shared that she has congestive heart failure, osteoporosis and other illnesses.
Unfortunately, Wanda’s story of loneliness and isolation is not unique. Many elderly people in our societies suffer from the same kind of isolation.
According to a 2012 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, social isolation and loneliness are correlated with a higher risk of mortality in adults aged 52 and higher.
We can all make a small difference today by being more mindful of the loneliness suffered by elderly people in our societies. You may have a family member who you haven’t seen for some time. Pay them a visit sooner rather than later. Or you may come across an elderly person at the local grocery store. Smile and say hello.
It makes me think of something the Pope said in a TED talk recently. He said the following (you can see it below):
“Quite a few years of life have strengthened my conviction that each and everyone’s existence is deeply tied to that of others: life is not time merely passing by, life is about interactions.”
There are so many people out there sharing the experience of Wanda. She was lucky that Brooks responded this way to her note, but others aren’t so lucky.
If you’ve managed to read this far into the article, please consider knocking on your neighbor’s door, or saying hello to an elderly person at the grocery store.
It may not mean so much to you but could mean the world to them. And who knows, you may even make a new friend.