Loneliness and isolation are common issues, affecting people of all ages, although, as reported by the NHS, it tends to affect older adults in higher numbers.
Indeed, according to research from the Local Government Association, in collaboration with the charity Age UK, roughly over a million people nationwide, who are in their mid-late 60s or older, experience loneliness that can be understood as severe. There are a number of effective ways to combat loneliness and isolation, however. Before we take a look at these helpful tips, it is important to first examine the problem of loneliness and isolation in more detail.
Understanding loneliness and isolation
The research from the Local Government Association noted a distinction between the terms loneliness and social isolation, despite the fact that they overlap and carry many similarities. Isolation occurs when someone becomes disconnected from other people, for any number of reasons. As the NHS explained, social isolation, in older people especially, can be a consequence of the death of loved ones, loss of a job, loss of mobility, family and friends moving away and so on. Loneliness can be understood as the negative feelings associated with being alone, including, depression, anxiety and vulnerability. Consequently, isolation and loneliness often occur together. As mental health charity Mind UK explained though, everyone is different in terms of the social interaction that they need. It is possible, therefore, for someone to feel lonely even if they aren't necessarily isolated from others. Conversely, some people who maintain little contact with other people - qualifying as isolated - may not feel lonely or unhappy with their lives.
A health risk?
Loneliness and isolation are major health problems. Age UK reported on a study from researchers at University College London, which found that older adults who experience social isolation have a higher risk of death within seven years - by as much as 26 percent. Furthermore, the NHS explained that isolation and loneliness can exacerbate mental health problems such as depression and increase one's risk of other health problems.
Tips for combating loneliness and isolation
If you are experiencing social isolation or feelings of loneliness there are steps you can take to improve your situation. Here is a guide to some of the most effective strategies.
1. Reach out
As detailed by the NHS, if you are feeling lonely or isolated it is common to feel unwanted and you may struggle to find ways to reach out, leading to extended periods of time spent alone. An effective way to prevent this then is contact the people in your life - don't necessarily wait for them to come to you. For example, invite an old friend or colleague over for afternoon tea, or make plans to spend a weekend away with some relatives. You will more than likely find that the people in your life will be more than delighted to see you. With a proactive approach, you'll likely find that you calendar begins to fill up and your feelings of loneliness subside.
2. Join social media
We live in the age of digital platforms and people are increasingly staying in touch via social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. These websites are easy to navigate, fun to use and make conversations with friends, family and acquaintances easy. For example, if your children or grandchildren live far away, social media sites are a fantastic way to keep up with their daily lives through instant chat, photographs and general updates. If you struggle with computer literacy, it is easy to become familiar with the basics. The NHS explained that charities, such as Age UK, and local community centers often run introductory computer classes - so sign up today!
3. Return to the classroom
Are you fascinated in history? Do you have a love of science? Or maybe you're looking to pick up a new skill, such as gardening? In any case, if you're keen to learn more about the subjects that interest you, it's never too late to return to the classroom. That's because, as reported by the British Heart Foundation, a nationwide organization known as the University of the Third Age, provides classes for those who are retired or have ample time on their hands. The objective of the classes is to engage older adults in the joy of learning and facilitate socializing and community bonding. As such, it's a fantastic way to get out of the house and meet new and inspiring people, all while doing something you truly enjoy. Better still, there are no assessments, tests or homework in this setting! The University of the Third Age run classes in an array of venues, including at local places such as libraries and community centers. To learn more, click here.
Volunteering is a fantastic way to meet new people, help your community and make a positive difference -there are are so many ways to get involved. The British Heart Foundation suggested reaching out a local charity or organization that interests you or even volunteering your time at a local charity shop. You can also head to your church or community center to help out.
5. Be honest
Feeling lonely and isolated can be incredibly hard. An effective strategy for overcoming these feelings is to be honest, Mind UK explained. Reach out to your loved ones, even if you don't have regular contact, and explain how you feel. There is a good chance that they will be willing to put in more effort to see you and help you develop strategies for overcoming loneliness. If you feel unable to reach out to friends or family, consider making an appointment with a therapist. He or she will be able to help you work through your negative feelings and find positive ways to change your life.
At Sunrise Senior Living our various care programs are designed to ensure that all residents lead fulfilling social lives. To learn more our residential care programs, please select Contact us at the top of this page.