Combating loneliness in later life

Loneliness in later life is increasingly common, but it doesn't have to be. Read our 6 tips for staying social, engaged and in touch!

With an ageing population that’s both living longer and retiring later, loneliness in later life is on the rise.

The older generation understandably seek the support of close family – usually in the form of children. But when that generation is working later in life than ever before, it’s not always possible to give parents, aunts or uncles the company they need.

The result? People are worried about their relatives, and often feel guilty.

Loneliness isn’t something we ever want our loved ones to experience, but there are so many ways for older people to remain social, engaged, and in touch with the outside world.

6 Tips for staying social

Living in isolation isn’t good for our physical or mental health, and can seriously damage our quality of life. If you have a friend or relative that you’re worried about, encourage them to:

  • Keep doing what makes them happy: Whether they enjoy going for walks, visiting the theatre, swimming, attending concerts, reading (joining a book club makes this beautifully social), baking, crafting, or visiting National Trust hotspots, these activities shouldn’t be abandoned just because the free bus pass has landed, or the grey hairs have taken over.

  • Work on their self-confidence: Our confidence levels can take a bit of a hit as we age, so some ‘self-care’ can provide that extra push to get out there and seize the day. If your loved one struggles with memory or clear thinking, encourage reading or puzzles that boost brain power. If technology is their sore spot, spend some time coaching them through some useful gadgets or apps. And if they’re self-conscious about their appearance, taking them to the hairdressers or shopping for a few new clothes can make a world of difference.

  • Get tech-savvy: It’s not uncommon for older people to shy away from social media, but if your loved one has young family or friends, encouraging them to embrace facebook can be a fantastic way of keeping in touch. While nothing can replace good old face-to-face interaction, being able to keep up with what other people are doing, send and receive emails, and even research personal interests on Google can leave them feeling far more connected.

  • Seek comfort: From tucking into a delicious home-cooked meal, to re-reading a favourite book or watching a well-loved movie, we sometimes need to be comforted by the things that make us feel good. Pets are wonderful companions, and go a good way towards alleviating loneliness, but if having a pet isn’t practicable, embracing anything else that feels good and induces happiness is a worthy pursuit.

  • Create a positive mindset: We are often our own worst enemies, and if someone is struggling with loneliness, it can be hard to look on the bright side and embrace positivity. Sit down for a real heart-to-heart with your loved one, and remind them that no feeling is final. Gently encourage them to help themselves by opening up to new ideas, like meditation. There are hundreds of guided meditations online (or you can buy them on CD!) – all of which have a remarkable impact on mental health.

  • Join a community: Being part of a community of like-minded people is the gold standard for staying social. Living alone, when cut off from other people, can take a serious toll on a person’s health. Having peers within reach, social events to look forward to, and dining with others (all while completely retaining independence) can significantly improve quality of life. And we know it’s daunting. But if you’re worried about someone not living life to the full, a positive community could provide an uplifting new phase in your loved one’s life.