How to Beat the Loneliness Blues
Loneliness is a growing issue affecting millions of people living in the UK. Research shows that people who live alone without regular contact with others are far more likely to suffer from depression and serious ill-health. In fact, loneliness can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day!
Older people are especially vulnerable. According to Age UK, over 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they sometimes go more than a month without speaking to a friend or family member.
At Homewise we have helped some of our customers avoid the loneliness trap by making it easier for them to move closer to family and friends, or afford a home with disabled access or located in an area with better community services and transport links. But there are lots of simple things you can do yourself to beat the loneliness blues. Here are a few ideas.
Volunteering in your local community is a great way to get out of the house and make new friends. According to a poll conducted by the Royal Voluntary Service, in the UK around 2.2 million people over the age of 60 help out with at least two different charities. There are opportunities for everyone, not matter what your skills or background, and plenty of charities and organisations to help you to find the right role for you. The two listed below are a great place to start.
Make friends with your computer
With technology advancing at such a pace it’s easy to feel left behind, but if you’re feeling lonely the internet is there to help. In 2016 it was reported that one in four over 60s in the UK use social media to stay in touch with friends and loved ones. Facebook is the most popular platform for seniors, but ‘silver surfers’ are increasingly using Instagram as a way to share family photos. Try asking a young friend for help if you’re not sure how to get started – you’ll be surprised how easy and rewarding it is.
Adopt a pet
Keeping a pet doesn’t just help beat loneliness, it’s also been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Animals are incredibly loyal friends – they never judge or criticise, and the affection they give comes with no strings attached. Dogs in particular have been proven to help decrease depression and loneliness; their daily walk is a great motivation to leave the house and they are brilliant at making friends! If you’re less active, nothing beats having a cat purring away on your lap at the end of the day.
Start a hobby
Boredom breeds loneliness, so it helps to have a hobby to keep you busy. It can be anything from learning a language to building a model train set in your garage. Some of the most popular hobbies for retirees in the UK include knitting, baking, photography and volunteering. Joining a local theatre group is a great way to connect with others, and activities like dancing and swimming are also very popular. What you do is up to you – the important thing is that it gives you a sense of achievement. If it involves socialising with others, even better.
Reach out to others
When you’re stuck at home waiting for the phone to ring, it’s easy to forget that many other people are feeling the same way. So why not be the one to break silence? Pick up the phone and call a friend or relative – perhaps someone you’ve not been in touch with for a while. Or if you prefer, write a letter or email. Even greeting your neighbour with a smile can trigger a conversation that will brighten up your day and theirs.
Use a companion service
Many age charities and organisations now offer companion services (also known as befriending services), where a volunteer is assigned to visit you at home or phone you for a chat on a weekly basis. This can be a real lifeline, particularly if you’re not as mobile as you used to be and find it hard to get out of the house. The volunteers enjoy what they do and often a warm, genuine friendship will develop, making it a rewarding experience for everyone.