The Benefits of Solitude and Being Alone
Do you worry about your older loved one being alone or in solitude often? Do they remove themselves from the conversation, chaos or the livelihood of life on a regular basis? We know that this can be alarming, as it can come across that they do not want to participate in socialization. Although it is natural to worry about your loved one, we think it is important to understand some of the reasons why your elderly loved one could be distancing themselves and opting for a quiet place to sit, rather than socializing with loved ones.
Did you know the researchers have found that older brains often get overwhelmed easier, as they are unable to process information? They also found that older brains are unable to separate irrelevant noise and environmental factors from relevant ones. This means that they are not just hearing the conversation that is happening between their loved ones, they are also focusing on the wind blowing, the dishes clinking in the background and the sound of the doors opening. Although it may seem easy for you to focus and to be engaged, it can actually be quite difficult for an elderly individual to focus.
When your elderly loved one experiences this information overload, they are more than likely feeling extremely overwhelmed and feel as though they cannot stand to be in that environment for another second. This is not uncommon, as they are experiencing a lot of noise in the background and it is easy to feel overcome by all of the information. Elderly individuals often seek out a place of quiet and solitude, where they can calm their mind and focus on their thoughts. Their decision to move physically and emotionally is not to hurt the feelings of their loved ones, but rather to take care of themselves and to make sure that they have what they need to be healthy and happy.
If your loved one seeks out a place of refuge and solitude, it is a good idea to make sure that there is a place readily available to them, should they need it. In their own home, that might be a comfortable chair on the patio or their bedroom. It is important to make sure that their place of solitude is accessible, so they can seek out that place easily when needed. It is also important that their place of quiet and solitude is “off limits” to others, especially when in use. They likely retreat to that place because they want to feel comfortable and safe, so having other people in their personal space may disrupt that.
We encourage you to talk to your elderly loved one about their safe space and encourage them to designate a place where they will go when they are feeling overwhelmed. We know that this may feel like a foreign concept, encouraging them to distance themselves from the family or social interaction. However, it is imperative that you know this is in their best interest and this will allow them to rest, recharge and clear their mind in a healthy way.