7 Ways To Combat Loneliness

Relaxed young redhead woman enjoying a tea break sitting wrapped in a warm blanket on a comfortable couch staring thoughtfully ahead,

By Patrick Stannah, MD at Stannah

Patrick Stannah

Patrick Stannah

According to Age UK, more than three million people in England over the age of 65 live alone. The sad truth is, that an estimated 300,000 older people go for a whole month without having a conversation or social contact with their family members or friends. It can be difficult to know how to help someone who may be struggling with loneliness. To help, here are 7 ideas you can suggest to a loved one, or take on board yourself, to help combat feelings of isolation in later life.

Get outside

Friendly woman tending an organic vegetable stall at a farmer's market and selling fresh vegetables from the rooftop garden;

Pic: Shutterstock

As we age, getting out and about everyday can become trickier. But ultimately, you are more likely to bump into people and make conversation if you go outside. Whether it’s popping to the shops and having a chat with the cashier, or simply having a stroll around the front garden and chatting to the neighbour, getting out and about will increase the chances of socialising.

We love pets

Smiling mature woman enjoying afternoon walk and petting dog in forest park in summer

Pic: iStockphoto

Studies show that owning a pet can greatly boost your mental and physical health. The companionship of a cat or dog, for example, is like no other, no matter the size or breed! If able to do so, why not invest in a four-legged friend who will provide unconditional love and affection?

Particularly with a dog, not only will they provide entertainment and a feeling of security at home, but they’ll get you out and about helping you stay active, too. Dog walking is a surprisingly great way to meet people. If you’re unsure about the commitment of getting a pooch of your own, try Borrow my Doggy to give you a taster to see what works for you.

Get online

Smiling senior woman looking her digital tablet while sitting on sofa. Portrait of mature happy woman relaxing at home with digital tablet. Happy lady with gray hair browsing on laptop in living room.

Pic: iStockphoto

Social media can seem daunting, but there are countless benefits to getting online. Re-connecting with old friends can be so rewarding in later life – and platforms like Facebook mean it’s never been easier. Skype and FaceTime allow you to see them and catch up through a click of a button, which is great news if you live far away from your favourite people.

Embracing local groups

Portrait of happy friends having fun and making group photo

Pic: Shutterstock

Get involved with activities in the local community. From a rambling society to a bridge club, there are groups for pretty much every interest, or you could even try something new. It’s a good way to meet new faces and ensure regular social gatherings. Ultimately, proactivity is key in later life to finding and developing friendships that last.

Lending time

 Macmillan Cancer Support. Charity stand outside superstore. Collecting money by selling china, books and cards. Three lady volunteers in uniform under white parasol.;

Pic: Shutterstock

Charity shops are constantly looking for people to provide their time in support for a good cause. Retirement offers the perfect opportunity to do this, so why not visit a local charity shop to enquire if they need help? No doubt there will be some bargains to pick up, too! Equally, churches can be a hub for communities where volunteers are relied upon. Whether it’s for cleaning, helping with flower arrangements or helping with the seasonal fete – it’s another welcoming place to socialise.

Something to look forward to

Canal boats on Braunston Canal

Why not organise a fun day out or trip away with a friend or with loved ones, to ensure you’re getting some quality time together? It can be hard to pin down family and friends when everyone is busy, but booking a lovely occasion in advance means you’ll have an event to look forward to. You could always set a tradition even if it’s something small and regular like a coffee once a week.

Travel is also an exciting moment to look forward to, perhaps an annual staycation? There are plenty of Coach trips to enjoy a day out to the seaside or to Christmas markets for example, so why not make the most of these hassle-free opportunities? You never know who you’ll end up meeting, and what it might lead to. If you are feeling exotic, many cruises also cater to single travellers, so there is no need to feel nervous, as you’re all in the same boat (literally).

Reach out

If you struggle with mobility and find feelings of loneliness are affecting your mental health, there are helplines out there, such as Age UK’s befriending service, or The Silver Line both of which provide a friendly voice at the end of the phone to chat to. There’s also no shame in opening up to friends or family that you are feeling socially isolated. Once you make these feelings known, it will be much easier for people around you to help. As author Oscar Wilde said; “Ultimately the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or in friendship, is conversation”.

Moira Chisholm

I'm the Health Editor on My Weekly and am always interested to hear what's new in this fascinating field. I also deal with the gardening, shopping pages, general features, our website content and the Ask Helen problem page. I have a special interest in Christmas content because I'm on the team for Your Best Ever Christmas Magazine, too!