“We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community.” – Dorothy Day
I feel sort of like Waldo these days—hidden in the crowd. Except no one is looking for me anymore.
Do you ever wonder where everyone our age has gone? For so long we Baby Boomers were everywhere: in the headlines and on magazine covers; our issues and celebrities dominating movies and television; setting trends, changing values, voicing our concerns; working and playing together, constantly.
Now, suddenly it seems, everyone is younger than us and no one understands our references to go-go boots and Dobie Gillis. Not that they pop up in the conversation very often, just sayin’.
Or maybe imagining a whole generation has just dropped off the face of the earth (well before its time, thank you very much) is just my own perception.
Until recently, I worked in the very youth-dominated world of advertising and marketing communications. And I got a late start entering those fields, so I’ve always been the old one in the crowd.
I’m also the oldest in a family of four girls. You’d think I’d be used to it by now. But I’m not. The truth is that the older I get, the more isolated I feel. I know it is part of aging, and I also know it doesn’t feel all that great.
Where’d everybody go?
Retiring early, and moving from Seattle to Bend a few years ago has contributed to the situation. Even though Bend has a thriving senior population, making the effort to connect with others is not easy for an introvert like me.
I know I am not alone with my experience. Many of us Boomers are moving into a new phase of life. After decades of being so busy, busy, busy, with full-time jobs, children, spouses, parents, and social activities that we craved nothing more than a little solitude, that wish is coming true.
Out of the blue, it seems we are empty nesters, divorced or widowed, moving from neighborhoods or cities where we’ve lived for decades, leaving family and friends we love and have long depended on for connection and support.
Many of us are retired, no longer with jobs that automatically connect us. Finding it much more difficult to reach out and engage with others than it was when we were younger.
Of course, this has always been the case with aging. The difference is that Boomers never thought it would happen to us. We’re in shock.
Hiding out with food
Being overweight just compounds the situation. Even though I was only 23 lbs. overweight, it might as well have been 100 or more. I felt fat and unattractive.
I lived in shapeless clothing that made me want to hibernate at home, and I was lonely, so I ate for comfort and relief from boredom. I just wanted to hide from the world, even though hiding was the last thing I needed.
Being connected to others is part of staying healthy and engaged in life. Research shows that people who enjoy a network of love and support with family and friends live longer.
And if they are trying to improve their health through diet and exercise, connecting with others is especially important. It’s simple, but not easy.
Invisible in a crowd
Everyone knows how hard it is to change from bad habits to good. Add in being overweight and aging, and the challenge can seem downright overwhelming. Especially when we’re invisible, as both the overweight and aged understand all too well.
But while younger women are catered to, romanced even, by many weight loss groups, us older overweight sufferers, not so much. Being a Boomer, I felt left out. I needed a weight loss program that hadn’t forgotten about me like it felt so many of them had.
Of course, I wasn’t blocked from these groups. But I felt uncomfortable interacting when I couldn’t relate to many of the concerns of the other, younger members. While they wanted to look great in a bikini, I just wanted to feel comfortable wearing a bra again.
I actually felt guilty for wanting to lose weight and still look trim, feel healthy and grow my self-confidence at 62. I kept trying to convince myself my ship had sailed and that I should just be happy to over-indulge and wear oversize sweat pants and t-shirts. Why couldn’t I just veg out and shut up about it?
For some reason, I just couldn’t. Self-improvement seems to be built into my DNA.
It’s nice to be found
Fortunately, I found a program that also considers the needs of us Boomers, and keeps us connected through social media, along with phone calls, and informal meet-ups. The connection is important not only in motivating me to lose weight but in providing much-needed support as I work through addictive behavior.
Losing weight is challenging in new ways as we age. We lose slower, for instance, and it can be encouraging to hear from others our age who have experienced and overcome that hindrance.
It’s also easier to post before and afters that celebrate our victories when others in our age group are doing the same. I am assuming a lot of Boomers feel the same because the program includes a lot of us.
Other paths of connection
If you find yourself isolating more and more, there are a number of ways you can connect with others besides social media. Taking a class at the local community college, joining or starting a reading group are a couple of ideas. You can sign up for a gym or senior club membership. Engage in activities at your church, go to a Meetup group, take your dog to the dog park and set up a lunch date with another dog lover you meet there.
I am looking into a number of these and other avenues for making new friends.
Of course, connection comes in all ages, and I value the friendships of my younger friends just as much as my Boomer friends. It’s just nice to find out where everyone’s been hiding out, so we BBs can help each other as we maneuver our way through this journey called life, just as we’ve always done.
Do you have any tips for making social connections when you’re going through a transition, such as retiring or relocating? If so, tell us all about it in the comments section below.