Older people are especially vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation – and it can have a serious effect on health. But there are ways to overcome loneliness, even if you live alone and find it hard to get out. Hundreds of thousands of elderly people are lonely and cut off from society in this country. Millions of people over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.
People can become socially isolated for a variety of reasons, such as getting older or weaker, no longer being the hub of their family, leaving the workplace, the deaths of spouses and friends, or through disability or illness. Whatever the cause, it’s shockingly easy to be left feeling alone and vulnerable, which can lead to depression and a serious decline in physical health and wellbeing. Someone who is lonely probably also finds it hard to reach out. There is a stigma surrounding loneliness, and they tend not to ask for help.
It’s important to remember loneliness can – and does – affect anyone, of any age. Here are ways for people to connect with others and feel useful and appreciated again.
Smile, even if it feels hard
Grab every chance to smile at others or begin a conversation – for instance, with the cashier at the shop or the person next to you in the GP waiting room. If you’re shy or not sure what to say, try asking people about themselves.
Invite friends for tea
If you’re feeling down and alone, it’s tempting to think nobody wants to visit you. But often friends, family and neighbours will appreciate receiving an invitation to come and spend some time with you.
Keep in touch by phone
Having a chat with a friend or relative over the phone can be the next best thing to being with them.
Learn to love computers
If your friends and family live far away, a good way to stay in touch, especially with grandchildren, is by using a personal computer or tablet (a handheld computer).
You can share emails and photos with family and friends, have free video chats using services such as Skyp, Facetime or Viber, and make new online “friends” or reconnect with old friends on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter and website forums.
Get involved in local community activities
These will vary according to where you live, but the chances are you’ll have access to a singing or walking group, book clubs, bridge, bingo, quiz nights and faith groups.
Fill your diary
It can help you feel less lonely if you plan the week ahead and put things in your diary to look forward to each day, such as a walk in the park, going to a local coffee shop, library, sports centre, cinema or museum.
Get out and about
Don’t wait for people to come and see you – travel to visit them.
Use the knowledge and experience you’ve gained over a lifetime to give something back to your community. You’ll get lots back in return, such as new skills and confidence – and, hopefully, some new friends, too.
Learn something new
Its a good time to learn or do something new, may be a hobby class or a new language you wanted to learn long back. Now its time, get enrol yourself. It gives you the chance to do, play or learn something you may never have done before, or something you’ve not considered since your school days.