MetroWest CARES (the Committee Addressing Resources for Seniors), coordinated by Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, brings together leaders from MetroWest agencies to promote independence and support vitality among older adults. Each month, a MetroWest CARES agency has an opportunity to address a critical elder-care issue.
This month’s article, on companionship and connection for older adults who are single, is presented by JCC MetroWest. Sharon Rogovin directs the JCC’s older adult program based at the Aidekman Whippany campus, including the At Leisure groups targeting men, women, couples, and now singles.
Third wheels only work on tricycles,” a recent widow told me. She was recounting an evening out with longtime friends, a couple with whom she and her husband had spent many social evenings over the years. She went on to explain “empty chair syndrome.” While her friends spent time perusing the menu, making conversation, and savoring their meals, she was unable to focus on anything other than the empty chair across the table from her. Not discounting the thoughtfulness, caring, and friendship behind the invitation, she struggled with her new role and pondered how to be single in a couple’s world.
For those who are widowed, divorced, or never married, thoughts of being single in a couple’s world pervade many if not all social situations, especially so for senior citizens. For those who are newly single, the task of figuring out how to define themselves in this new role is truly daunting. Longtime friendships and relationships are re-evaluated in light of this new status, some by choice, some not.
Being “the widow” or “the single friend” is threatening to some not yet in that exclusive boat. After spending decades as half of a couple, many of those who find themselves suddenly single often face feelings of overwhelming loneliness and isolation. It takes time to overcome the grief and depression that often accompanies the loss of a spouse either through death or divorce. When the survivors feel emotionally ready to partake in social activities again, they often do not know where to turn. For some, long-lasting community, club, and organizational affiliations may offer social outlets, though for others it accentuates the loss experienced. Many senior singles are facing another next 15 to 20 years of life and must take positive steps to create fulfilling friendships and relationships. Not everyone is looking to find another mate but most people are looking to have a meaningful social life.
The good news is that there are many single seniors or solo seniors, as they are sometimes referred to, in our community who are widowed or divorced who have dealt with their loss and want to move on with their lives. To respond to the needs of these seniors, the JCC MetroWest is starting a new group for active, vital, single Jewish seniors, living independently in the community who are young at heart and young in spirit. Together at Leisure was created to provide social and interactive programming for those JCC members who are seeking a group where being single in a couple’s world is the norm. It is an opportunity to find friendship, companionship, and increased social contact with others. The purpose of the group is to build lasting friendships, share ideas, encourage participation, have fun, and enjoy interesting events and meaningful activities with like-minded people. The group will meet once a month with the first meeting on Sept. 9 at the Aidekman Campus in Whippany, at 5:30 p.m. For more information regarding Together at Leisure, or to reserve your spot for our inaugural meeting, call 973-929-2917.
Robert McAfee Brown said, “How does one keep from ‘growing old inside’? Surely only in community. The only way to make friends with time is to stay friends with people.” Together at Leisure is an opportunity to create new connections for solo seniors.
The network of agencies serving seniors in MetroWest has many programs of particular benefit to solo seniors — including senior housing, information and referral services, counseling, home repair, caregiving companions, and short- and long-term rehab care, along with a rich menu of social and recreational programs and activities through the JCC and at satellite senior centers at area synagogues. For more information on programs through the JCC MetroWest, visit www.jccmetrowest.org or call 973-530-3480. A full listing of JCC MetroWest programs for seniors can be found at http://tinyurl.com/cxn8xqs.
Families and caregivers with broad elder-care questions and who need help with community resources can contact Elderlink (www.elderlinkmetrowest.org), a portal to all MetroWest services for older adults and their families. Elderlink can be reached at 973-765-9050 or firstname.lastname@example.org.