Our family is blessed. Bonnie’s parents just celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary. What a joy! Or is it? They are still fortunate to be together and stay relatively healthy. And to have a devoted family. But it’s fascinating to think about how the old age changes your social life.
I recently came across this article https://www.visualcapitalist.com/who-americans-spend-the-most-time-with-by-age/
Below is the crucial graph.
I am not certain how accurate are up-to-the-minute data, and one can dispute the details of the survey. But to me, trends are more important than the faceless numbers. The study spanned years 2009 to 2019, so the authors completed it before the pandemics.
Several points are obvious. Time spent with the family reflects the age of being a parent or a child., and reflects the natural pattern of growing up. Time with coworkers shows the productive years. But I was interested in the moments we spend alone. Time in solitude is relatively constant between ages 20 to 40 and increases significantly afterwards.
Time in our own company creeps up on us steadily throughout the life. Yet, it is not necessarily a bad thing. Solitude doesn’t mean loneliness. It’s great if the decision of being alone is one of your choice. Some people prefer companionship, some want to be left to themselves. The seclusion is often voluntary, and easier to endure when the person is younger. It’s great when one is healthy and can take care of yourself. But what about time, when you need help? What about when you need somebody and there’s nobody around? Traditionally, children do take care of elderly parents, but what about when they are far away, or, even worse, not interested? Each aging person comes with a story, and it would be fascinating to get to know them. I know people who in their seventies-eighties are independent, and love it. I know a few who are lonely, depressed, and spend all the time on the internet, posting and reposting silly videos.
Now, a forced isolation is the harshest punishment one can impose on any person. Just ask the prison guards. When forcefully locked up, adults go crazy and children stop in their development. In addition, putting a mask on a person muffles and blunts personal interaction between human beings. I saw it during the lockdowns.
But at the certain point in life, there comes a moment when your longing for a company is being hampered by your inability to maintain the relationship. Be it your health, the distance, or just inability to communicate. You want to open your mouth, and there’s no one around to listen. Then you wonder: “Is it all it is to life?”, or, “What did go wrong?”
And there was Methuselah, son of Enoch and a grandfather of Noah. He lived to be 969 years old. What do you do when all your peers are gone, problems you’ve encountered while young long time solved, your health is perfect, and you don’t have anybody around to have coffee with?
Still, having a healthy social interaction is the irreplaceable activity of human life. Even higher than the process of creation. The value of creation is greatly improved by the ability to communicate the results with one’s peers.
And that’s why the pandemic did such a number on humanity.