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  Wednesday January 28th, 2015    

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Unmasking the faces of 2011 (12/26/2010)
By Janet Lewis Burns

Now that the 2010 Holidays are winding down, it’s high time to face a new year. Some have optimistic expectations and are looking forward to a new beginning. Lucky breaks have been realized. A clean bill of health is great news! Things are looking up!

There are others who cannot bear to face a new year and more of the same. They need to find work to support a family. They can’t afford their medications. Their marriage is in trouble. Their home is in foreclosure. They suffer from drug dependency. Diagnosis: meltdown USA.

Would you believe that today more than 44 million adults over age 45 suffer from chronic loneliness? Perhaps you read the article in the December AARP Magazine, entitled “All the Lonely People,” by Brad Edmondson. I had no idea! Yet another “condition” has surprisingly broad and profound ill effects on one’s health.

Not the oldest among us, adults in their 40s and 50s are suffering from chronic loneliness at higher rates than other age groups. The sad truth is that many of these individuals seek out places like 24-hour grocery stores and cafes that stay open late at night. It isn’t like a TV drama, when two people come face-to-face and hand-to-hand in the produce aisle, both squeezing the same melon, and it’s love everlasting!

Fifty two year old Franklin Crawford is not a slob or an outcast. He’s employed, fit, well dressed, and well read. He worked for 20 years as a reporter in newsrooms, but now works from home, where he lives alone.

“I miss that office because of the warm bodies, not the work,” Crawford states in the article. Admitting that he doesn’t usually start a conversation with other probable loners combing the aisles, he adds, “Sometimes I think maybe we despise each other, because we’re all here instead of home with someone else.” Wow! That’s radical!

Edmondson writes, “Chronic loneliness, experts tell us, is an ever-present, self-perpetuating condition that pushes people away from the relations that sustain and make us happy.” Bodily harm accompanies chronic loneliness. Easily excitable, and at a greater risk for high blood pressure, an increase in sleep disorders, the chance of contracting diabetes, and the most dreaded “A” (Alzheimer’s) disease, chronically lonely people have a fear of rejection. Many are living alone with no one to talk over personal and important matters with. Living alone and growing old are not, by themselves, reliable predictors of loneliness,” writes Edmondson. Strangely, by age 85 people are generally quite happy, regardless of whether they’re living alone or with anyone else (probably just tickled to be among the living.) The article goes on to say, “Not surprisingly, 62 percent of respondents who said they are depressed also reported being lonely.” “...though they are two distinct mental states.”

“Respondents who had been diagnosed with cancer had the lowest rate of loneliness.” That statement reminded me of a downtime in my life, fifteen years ago, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though my family was supportive, I felt I needed a connection with others who were going through a similar experience.

When I joined the cancer support group in Lewiston, I formed a bond with others who were dealing with the physical ravages and emotional trauma of cancer. It was an uplifting and strengthening experience, which gave me the stamina to overcome my isolation.

Soon to turn 2011, the new year wears the exposed face of loneliness and despair - of the scars of neglect and abuse – street kids sleeping in cardboard boxes – of political unrest within our national government - grieving families facing the loss of their loved ones in combat – of Indonesian children as young as 5-years-of-age addicted to cigarettes – prostitution rings imprisoning young kidnapped girls - of greed and selfish consumption – the hungry and oppressed.

Before “FEAR” settles-in for another year, believers, now more than ever, must engage the profound power of a friendly, compassionate, smiling face....that knows no boundaries nor harbors any sort of racial bias.

Meaningful, most impacting New Years resolutions are the ones that count! Say cheese!

Janet Burns extends cheery wishes for a safe, lighthearted, and eggnogging New Years Eve. patandjanburns@embarqmail.com. 


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