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Q: As I get older, I feel lonelier. What practical steps can I take to feel more a part of society?

Mayur Kakade / Getty Images.

A: As we advance in age, our circumstances change. Our children move out, we no longer work and, if we live on our own, our time may be spent isolated from others. What’s more, measures taken to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic have increased feelings of loneliness among people of all ages. 

Gerontologist Linda P. Fried, dean of the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, focuses on healthy aging. She identified three specific types of loneliness that older adults are prone to experiencing. They stem from 1) a lack of intergenerational contact, 2) feeling unable to contribute to society and 3) existential loneliness.[1]

While the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified such feelings, here are ways our Buddhist practice and community can help. 

1. Connect with Other Generations

Our SGI districts are places where people of all walks of life can gather and connect as equals, sharing our setbacks and victories, and cheering one another on all the while. These gatherings remind us that we are Buddhas, with an entire community that has our backs. About our district discussion meetings, Ikeda Sensei says:

We are living in an age when human relations are growing more and more tenuous. In such an environment, the SGI district, where members forge strong bonds of mutual support and understanding, is the cornerstone for the success of our movement. …

Soka Gakkai districts are diverse gatherings with members of all ages and generations. Indeed, the district is a microcosm of our Soka family as a whole.[2]

By engaging in our district meetings, we reconnect with others and refresh our own spirit to work for kosen-rufu.

2. Contribute to Society

SGI members often hear the refrain: There is no retirement age in faith. This means that we can always contribute in some way, using prayer to bring forth our ingenuity to take action in our respective circumstances. Take Aiko Anderson, who continues to joyfully introduce others to Nichiren Buddhism  at 100 years old. The secret to her ever-youthful spirit? “Find a friend in faith and stick together, chant together,” she says. “Run a hard, three-legged race for kosen-rufu.”[3]

Teaching others about the Mystic Law and helping them become happy is the most direct and powerful way to contribute to our community. Many Treasures Group members play a crucial role in guiding others by sharing their accumulated wisdom, experiences and conviction in faith.

3. Realize Our Inherent Worth

Ms. Fried found that the aging population is prone to existential loneliness, which may take shape as worry about being unneeded by society, concern about getting the care needed when falling ill and questions about their life’s worth. 

Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and Buddhist study reminds us of the unfading treasure that lies within. Sensei writes:

Every individual has unique, absolute, inherent worth deserving of the highest respect and possesses a singular mission. When we take pride in this and dedicate ourselves to our mission, we experience true joy and zest for living.[4]

Furthermore, Nichiren Daishonin states, “You will grow younger, and your good fortune will accumulate.”[5] Those who continue to practice Buddhism diligently throughout their lives will forge an unshakable self and undoubtedly lead an enjoyable and meaningful existence. 

By practicing Buddhism and engaging in SGI activities, we can not only lead the most fulfilling lives but also show future generations how it’s done.

—Prepared by the World Tribune staff


  1. <accessed on Aug. 3, 2022>. ↩︎
  2. Aug. 27, 2010, World Tribune, p. 5. ↩︎
  3. To read her full experience, see Aug. 13, 2021, World Tribune, p. 5. Click here to read. ↩︎
  4. The New Human Revolution, vol. 30, p. 38. ↩︎
  5. “The Unity of Husband and Wife,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 463. ↩︎

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