My guess is that your practice may include single, widowed, and divorced individuals. The numbers are telling: single adults in the United States now comprise slightly more than half the adult population. That number is growing. For younger adults, being single poses unique challenges. My under-40 single friends and family members tell me that finding a social, spiritual, or leisure affinity with peers is anything but easy. Social media promises instant community. Finding that community for many, however, is daunting.
Older adults, especially seniors who are caring for a spouse either at home or in a healthcare facility, face an entirely different hurdle. Yes, more seniors are connecting online through blogs, e-mail, and community bulletin boards, but many are not. We have clients in their 80’s, caring at home for spouses with adult children living hundreds of miles away. We read articles about “the sandwich generation,” but some have a crisis of another species.
How might we care for our clients who face chronic loneliness regardless of their age or life situation?
First, remember we always have a reason to call a client. It may be a “Task” reminder to reach out to widowed seniors on a monthly basis. Those “How are you?” calls mean so much to people who fear they will be forgotten. Those non-business touch points may segue from their side into a conversation about a business opportunity.
Second, learn all you can about younger singles and their interests. For some, it’s golf, tennis, running, or travel. Others have aging parents who look to them for emotional support. Some of our single clients look to us for wisdom when it comes to a career change, purchase of a home, and work-lifestyle balance. Divorce, both at the time of separation and afterward, creates uncertainty financially and relationally. In recent weeks, I have visited twice with a woman in her 30’s whose husband has abandoned her. Her parents, who are clients, have also called to express their feelings of helplessness and pain.
Third, be more intentional and present to married clients whose spouse has a terminal or chronic illness. A client recently shared with me that the occasional calls I make to check in with her and her husband mean much to both. And yes, when a client dies, find ways to be present to the surviving spouse and family members. Grief and loss exacerbate feelings of loneliness in a manner that even the grieving find hard to define.
Why not take a few minutes today and make a list of clients who may be enduring a season of loneliness and start making those calls? That extra level of support, I predict, will open new doors of understanding and service that will help you better understand these clients whose lives will be better because you care.