Entrepreneurship As a Means of Combating the Epidemic of Loneliness

Useful work to fill the hours of our days is what your body would tell you it wants if it could speak.

In 2018 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the CDC, declared that loneliness was the second most significant lifestyle contributor to premature death in older segments of the population. The CDC said that loneliness was surpassed only by obesity as a contributor to early deaths by heart disease, stroke and suicide. Loneliness, which is often expressed by a progressive withdrawal from society, can occur because of mental or physical disabilities, economic stress, post-traumatic syndrome or an increasing feeling that you are no longer doing anything that matters to anyone.

Loneliness, coupled with inactivity, contributes to smoking, over eating, excess alcohol consumption and reliance on prescription pain killers that can result in alcoholism and addiction. “I am not hurting anyone, so leave me alone,” is a statement that is commonly heard uttered by those who might be questioned about what others view as self-destructive activities or a significant change in lifestyle.

Useful work to fill the hours of our days is what your body, the human animal, would tell you if it could speak. We humans, as a species, were designed to do physical stuff. This was evading predators that were more physically powerful than we, running to pursue game and climbing trees to gather food and seek safety. Later in human development it became necessary to work to gather wood for cooking, build shelters to protect us from harsh physical environments and fashion tools and clothing. As man became a farmer who had to plant, grow and harvest his own food, there was much physical labor involved, although now assisted by animals and machines. Such has been the nature of human development.

By the end of the 20th Century, mental, rather than physical activities, tended to dominate more of man’s existence. Water no longer had to be drawn for a well and hauled into the house. More efficient means of heating were developed that did not require wood to be harvested, split and hauled. Many became more sedentary in their everyday activities. Those who were prudent sought sports, gyms and outdoor activities to not only stay connected with their fellow men, but keep their bodies in physical condition. To be frank, keeping the body in a sexually attractive condition was the main driver for many, but whatever the motivation, significant benefits to general health and longevity resulted.

Now that You Are Older

Just by living a half-century or more, you have been exposed to accidents, injuries and illnesses. Some of these impacts on your physical and mental states can be mitigated at the time, but reappear at later stages in your life. As you age life takes another toll as those you knew, worked with and loved pass away. Your circle of relatives and friends decreases which is augmented by an increasingly mobile population where your kids and grandkids move away to start their own lives by participating in an increasingly mobile and global work life. Wherever you are, you are left more and more alone with each passing year. Where once three or more generations lived in the same house, those houses now stand abandoned not only in North America, but all over the world. If you are the last family member living in such a place, no wonder you are lonely.

Using the skills that you already have, learning others and starting your own late-life business can have significant impacts on the pleasure you derive from life and improve your sense of self-worth, regardless of the physical state that you find yourself in at the moment. If you are, or can become, computer savvy, the entire globe can be your marketplace as you promote your ideas, concepts and inventions to help others improve their lives and you yours.

Ask if you need someone to teach you how to work a computer, do a video or sell things on line. There are those who can and will help. Once on line, a universe of goods and services are available to you, but a degree of skepticism and caution needs to be exercised, because some are scams that promise much, but deliver very little. It is better to enlist the services of a young relative or even the kid next door, to help you out.

Working on establishing your own business, seeking and accepting help from others, testing ideas on strangers, buying and selling are all active interchanges between you and the rest of the world that help combat the feelings of loneliness. These positive interactions with others can help you can break free of the feelings of isolation. This is a far better alternative that vegetating in front of a TV set watching news of gloom and doom. In fact, I would suggest that you use TV as sparingly as possible as a reward for accomplishing your work goal/s for the day.

Mental activity is one half of a potential anti-loneliness program. Physical activity is equally significant, even if it might be confined to house and yard-keeping chores. If you are in an urban setting, an exercise machine that you actually use would be a good option. Set aside a time each day to do your exercises and keep a log on what you do. Recording your progress will provide an incentive to keep up with your program, and return to it when you may relapse, as when you have a temporary injury or illness.

Deciding on what businesses to try and when to try it is one of the topics that I cover in my most recent book, Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife. Another is starting a business with limited or almost no resources. If you have lived, you likely have in TED-Talk language, “An idea worth sharing.” If you can share that idea in a manner that is meaningful to others, that can be the basis of a successful business that might not physically get you out of your house, but will enormously expand your human-contact base to help you overcome your feelings of isolation and despair, which are the principal manifestations of loneliness

Author's Bio: 

Wm. Hovey Smith is a registered Professional Geologist in Georgia. He is also a member of several writers’ organizations including the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) and the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association (GOWA). He is the author of 18 books with his most recent title being “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife.” He has been a radio host and does public speaking on work and environmental topics with appearances in the U.S., Europe and China. He is an active blogger and the producer of over 725 YouTube videos on outdoor and business topics.