Loneliness is a growing problem for the older generation. A report by the Office for National Statistics showed that a third of people in their fifties felt lonely¹ – and this figure rises to half in people over the age of eighty. While isolation is a year-round issue, the colder weather, long winter nights and imminent festive season can make it seem worse. This can have a detrimental effect on both physical and mental wellbeing, so what can be done about it? Here are a few ideas.
Start locally - get to know your community
If you’ve recently retired, it’s likely that your time has been filled with work and colleagues. It could be that you don’t really know the people who live around you. So think about joining a local group, charity or project, and you could start to feel that you’re part of the community that you live in.
Find people who share your interests
You may have people around you, but if they don’t enjoy the same hobbies or interests as you, this can lead to feelings of isolation. Look for local groups that focus on something you love – a book group, gardening group or walking club, for example – opening up the possibility of getting to know like-minded people. The Age UK website has details of events and groups that they hold in your local area.
There’s growing evidence that singing is good for both your health and wellbeing². Increasing numbers of choirs have sprung up in recent years (and not all require an audition, so don’t be put off by that thought). Singing with a choir blends social advantages of group socialising with a range of health benefits – it’s great aerobic exercise, a stress release and can give you a psychological boost.
Many local councils run befriending schemes. You could request a visit yourself, but volunteering to visit others could also be beneficial to you. By giving your own time you could feel an enhanced sense of self worth as well as enjoying an opportunity to get out and meet new people.
Look online or call the Silver Line
There are a wealth of online resources dedicated to the over fifties. These cover everything from social events to online communities³ and information4. The Silver Line is also there to help. A confidential and free helpline for older people, open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, it offers information, friendship and advice. It can also link callers to local groups and services or arrange befriending calls.
So whether loneliness is a problem that’s personal to you, or you know of a friend, neighbour or family member who is affected by this, there are steps that can be taken to alleviate this issue and people out there who can help.