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The invincible island

Mari Cruz is 75 years old and does not fear loneliness: it is loneliness rather that is afraid of her. Loneliness cannot beat her. Despite her age, one day Mari Cruz decided to explore everything that this new epoch of life could offer. One day, she proposed to love herself. Now, although the lack of mobility hinders, thanks to the volunteers of the Always Supported program of the Obra Social "la Caixa" and the Red Cross, she enjoys daily activities and moments that have turned her loneliness into a different feeling, much bigger: the feeling of freedom.

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essions of laughter therapy and music therapy, personal development workshops and group picnics are some of the activities that have made Mari Cruz enter a universe of new sensations and knowledge and, also, begin to see loneliness with different eyes. Because if the poet W. H. Auden said that “being free is often feeling alone”, the opposite is also true: loneliness can be synonymous with freedom. “Sometimes we are not aware of the freedom we have when we are alone. We move in a different way, we act differently. The only one who controls yourself is you”, she states with pride.

Mari Cruz began to pronounce these words with conviction when she realized that she had at her reach a lot of experiences to live. “The workshops Living the Life I Want and Living positively are marvellous, because before I did not know how to live as I wanted; I lived the way it was stipulated. I complained that I had many leaks… Now they do not even bother me, because my head is occupied! I get new profits spending my days painting, reading or crocheting”, explains Mari Cruz. Anything goes. The important thing is that, at nightfall, she has the feeling that her day has been worthwhile.

She also remembers that once she felt that she no longer had time to get bored or to find fault with things, the best part of all came: to learn to love herself as she had never done in the last 70 years. “They have taught me that I have skills that I did not know. It’s very important because, even if you think you have a lot, the only thing you actually have is yourself“. An evidence of how Mari Cruz’s self-concept has changed is that, recently, she ventured to give a crochet workshop and other domestic chores to her classmates in the program.

The effects that loneliness can cause on our health, such as increasing the risk of suffering a heart attack or developing arthritis, made Elisabeth Poy, worker of Community Intervention Always Supported, join that idea that several researchers have put on the table in recent years: loneliness is the epidemic of our times. In addition to the longer life expectancy, Elisabeth believes that this is because “we live in a society that pushes us to be individualistic. In a few generations, the forms of coexistence and family relationships have changed a lot. Aging is not something that young people like. And the solution is to provoke a cultural change based on intergenerational activities and a lot of awareness”.

According to Elisabeth, “we are still in time to prevent this from going any further”, but insists that, in order to achieve it, it is more than essential that its protagonists dash to write the last chapters of their lives. “It is fundamental that older people strive to recognize their situation of loneliness, have desire and attitude to squeeze what life can give them, and that they do not break with their emotional ties, because it is the love we feel for others that ultimately helps us to get up”.

Text: Alba Losada
Illustration: Rodrigo Alexandrino ICO

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