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!
Meet new people in an everyday situation
Grab every chance to smile at others or begin a conversation – for instance, with the cashier at Tesco or the person next to you in the GP office. If you’re not sure what to say, try asking people about themselves.
Invite friends, family & neighbours for tea
Sometimes it’s tempting to think nobody wants to visit you. But often friends, family and neighbours will really 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. Or you can call The Silver Line, a helpline for older people, on 0800 470 8090.
You can also call Independent Age on 0800 319 6789, Age UK on 0800 169 2081, or Friends of the Elderly on 020 7730 8263 to receive a weekly or fortnightly friendship call from a volunteer who enjoys talking to older people.
Technology is a wonderful thing
If your friends and family live far away, a good way to stay in touch, especially with grandchildren, is by using a computer, smart phone or tablet.
You can share emails and photos with family and friends, have free video chats using services such as Skype and make new online “friends” or reconnect with old friends on social media sites such as Facebook.
A tablet computer can be especially useful if you can’t get around very easily, as you can sit with it on your knee or close to hand and the screen is clear and bright. A sponge-tip stylus pen or speech recognition may help if the touchscreen is difficult for arthritic hands or fingers with poor circulation.
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.
One advantage of being older is that public transport is better value. Local bus travel is free for older people across England. The age at which you can apply for your free bus pass depends on when you were born and where you live. Contact your local authority for more information on how to apply.
Use this State Pension calculator to find out the exact date when you can apply for your free bus pass.
For longer distances, train and coach travel can be cheap, too, especially if you book in advance online and use a Senior Railcard.
The Royal Voluntary Service can put you in touch with volunteers who provide free transport for older people with mobility issues or who live in rural areas with limited public transport.
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.
There are endless volunteering opportunities that relish the qualities and skills of older people, such as patience, experience and calmness. Examples are Home-Start, Sure Start, helping in a local charity shop or hospital, Citizens Advice, and school reading programmes.
Some information in this blog is taken from NHS