Making friends can be a daunting task, and it becomes even harder to do as one gets older. Sadly, people often overlook the reality that many elderly people live alone, and that isolation can lead to crippling loneliness and sadness. Marleen Brooks of California was reminded of this when she came home to find a heart-wrenching letter from her 90-year-old neighbor, whom she’d never spoken to before. The elderly woman had reached out to her to confess that she was extremely lonely, asking if the two of them could be friends. The note read:
“Would you consider to become my friend. I’m 90 years old — live alone. All my friends have passed away. I’m so lonesome and scared. Please I pray for someone.” Marleen sent a photo of the note to a local news anchor, Frank Somerville of KTVU, who shared it on his Facebook page along with a caption from Marleen: “Came home to this note from a lady that lives down the street from me. Makes my heart sad, but on the bright side it looks like I will be getting a new friend.”
So what did she do next? Of course, she went over and introduced herself to her elderly neighbor, Wanda, cupcakes in hand. “She’s such a sweet lady! And she was over the moon when we came over,” Marleen later told the news anchor, who posted the update. During their visit, Wanda opened up to Marleen about her perpetual isolation and how happy she was to meet her.
“I hope you didn’t think I was stupid for writing you, but I had to do something,” Wanda told her, according to Marleen. “Thank you so much for coming over. I’ve lived here for 50 years and don’t know any of my neighbors.”
Wanda has three sons, and one of them passed away from cancer last year, she told Marleen. The other two live far away, so she rarely sees them. Wanda is on oxygen and has congestive heart failure and osteoporosis, among other ailments. The link between extreme isolation and physical health in the elderly has been well-documented; a 2008 study found that lonely older adults were 45 percent more likely to die than those who had meaningful connections with others, reported The New York Times in 2012.
Having someone around makes all the difference in the world, even if it seems like a small thing to stop by and just say hi to that elderly neighbor down the street. “There are so many others out there who are lonely just like Wanda,” the news anchor reminded his audience in the post. “I would ask that maybe you consider knocking on their door and saying hi. I know it would mean the world to them.”
And as for Marleen and Wanda? We spy the beginnings of a beautiful friendship.