People can become socially isolated for a variety of reasons, such as getting older, weaker, no longer being the hub of their family, leaving the workplace, disability or illness, and the deaths of spouses and friends. 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 well-being. Older people are especially vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation. Thousands of elderly people are lonely and cut off from society, especially those over the age of 75, and many say that the television is their main form of company.
Someone who is lonely probably also finds it hard to reach out. There is a stigma surrounding loneliness and older people tend to find it particularly difficult to ask for help.
But there are ways to overcome loneliness, even if you live alone and find it hard to get out! Here are ways for older 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 that no-one 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 keep in touch, especially with grandchildren, is by using a personal computer or tablet (hand held computer). You can share emails and photos with family and friends, have free video chats using services such as Skype, Face Time or Viber and make new online ‘friends’ or reconnect with old friends with social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, and website forums.
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.
Blogging – as a blogger or commenter – can also be a perfect pastime for elders. It’s an excellent mental exercise that helps keep brain cells active and minds nimble but what’s relevant today is that it also keeps you socially engaged.
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.
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, new friends too. There are many volunteering opportunities which relish the qualities and skills of older people – such as patience, experience and calmness. Why not consider joining Dewcare Non-Medical Services as a volunteer!!