Retiree Ennui

24 Dec

Dear LetterBalm: An older ex-colleague and I grew close during the time we worked together. His family members passed on years ago, and he has no relatives and few friends. I think of him as an uncle. He retired a few years ago. He spends his days watching C-Span and reading newspapers. He rarely ventures out, unless it’s to have dinner or a movie with me or to see his doctors. (He’s in remarkable health for a 72-year-old.) I’ve watched him go from someone who could passionately discuss politics and a wide range of social history to a taciturn man who rarely speaks and never laughs. I think he’s bored and depressed and feeling useless. What can I say to him to get him out of his mood?

–Wanting To Help

Ms. L.B. commends you for a friendship that finds common ground across the years – she’s sure your friend appreciates your company. See if you can get him to see a therapist who specializes in elder and retirement issues. If he won’t go, there may be other ways to break him out of his funk. There are a myriad of lectures and symposiums on topics he might be interested in, and some of them may be free or priced for seniors. If he’s interested in politics, perhaps he would want to get involved in a political campaign – they seem to be endless these days. And, of course, there’s a wide range of volunteer possibilities. Start slow, have lots of ideas to offer as time goes by, and don’t press:

Edgar, I’ve noticed that as the months have gone by, you seem to be circling the wagons and pulling your life more closely around you. I miss our discussions about politics and every topic under the sun. Would you like to talk to someone who can help you understand the ramifications of post-working life? I don’t want you to grow even more quiet and bored. It would be a shame. We can look into some lectures and symposia subscriptions, and you may want to consider helping in a local school – you’re a first-rate writer, and kids can always use help with after-school writing and grammar programs. We can start slow and make a plan, just two or three things you can look forward to, spaced out over your calendar, so you don’t feel pressured. Would you want to consider any of this?

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