It’s hard to know how to cope with loneliness when you are experiencing it.
Many of us end up lonely due to bereavement, loved ones relocating and other life changes.
There are upwards of nine million people in the UK feeling lonely. Four million of those people are elderly.
This article explores why you might be feeling lonely, and some strategies to try to combat that feeling.
Here’s a summary of what we will cover in this article:
- It is important to accept your situation as it is before you can change it.
- Try your local council or GP as your first port of call for how to cope with loneliness.
- There is a good deal of help to combat loneliness in older people. Remember it is on offer for a reason – lots of people experience loneliness.
- Two million older people live alone. You could combat your own loneliness by becoming a companion visitor for someone else.
- Why am I lonely?
- A change in circumstances can cause loneliness
- How can I stop feeling lonely?
- What activities can I do to cope with loneliness?
- Building a social life in day care centres
- Social activities that are simple and cheap
- How to cope with loneliness - physical exercise strategies
- My confidence is low because I’ve been lonely
- Steps to feeling better
Why am I lonely?
There are a good deal of reasons why people might feel lonely at any age.
This could be due to moving away from family and friends, starting a new job, or feeling like you don’t fit in wherever you are.
As people grow older their reasons for feeling lonely can change.
Adjusting to retirement can be tough as you deal with a sense of loss after a long career or time in employment.
The lack of structure in the day can be a shock to some people.
Not being surrounded by colleagues any longer can bring about feelings of loneliness.
Living on a reduced income after retirement can also mean that the free time you now have isn’t used in the same ways as before.
For instance, meeting friends and socialising in restaurants, or some paid for activities might be less affordable on a pension.
Health issues can also present in later life, making it that bit harder to get out and about to see others.
Perhaps sight and hearing impairments might impair confidence in socialising.
Getting around needs a little more planning than before, as you may choose not to drive any longer.
A change in circumstances can cause loneliness
As people grow older, peers and partners may pass on – so it is normal to feel grief and loss.
It is also important to get help to manage these emotions so they don’t lead to isolation and feelings of intense loneliness.
Many people have to move away from their hometowns in order to find work. This can be impactful on the parents and older relatives left behind.
You may not see your grandchildren or younger members of the family as much as you like while they are living away.
If you are needed as a carer for a loved one, you may feel lonely through necessity and guilty taking time off from your caring responsibilities to socialise.
Many older people now live alone – around two million in the UK.
One million of those say they can go a month without chatting to a friend, family member or neighbour.
Living alone doesn’t have to be lonely. It can feel like a struggle to get out and about on your own if you aren’t used to it.
Half of the two million older people living alone in the UK say they can go an entire month without chatting to a loved one.
How can I stop feeling lonely?
The first step is to accept the situation – you may have been growing more lonely over a period of months or years before it really hits home.
It may not be clear quite how lonely you have been until something makes you realise.
It is unlikely that the situation will change overnight, even if you throw yourself into social activities immediately.
Loneliness is not just the act of being alone, but also lacking connection with others.
You may not form bonds with people straight away, so it is important that you learn to accept your current reality.
Accepting that you are lonely means that you can start to make a plan of how to cope with loneliness – it doesn’t mean accepting that you will be lonely forever.
What activities can I do to cope with loneliness?
Here are some activities you can try to help you cope with loneliness.
Getting closer to family
Some people may choose to move closer to family who live away from ‘home’.
Remember though, that they will have their own activities and commitments. This could mean they are not able to provide all of the company you require.
In this case, connecting digitally with your loved ones might be a better option.
When you are able to have a regular schedule of calls or video calls, you will also have something to look forward to. Anticipation is a large part of our enjoyment of things.
If you struggle with technology, there are many charities and companies that arrange help for older people to use their tech.
Libraries often have workshops to help older people use their technology better.
And you could try these dementia radio stations.
Home care and companionship care
If getting out and about is tricky for you thanks to mobility issues or ill health, you might consider employing a carer.
There is such a thing as companionship care.
This is where your carer doesn’t help with personal or nursing care, but cares instead for your emotional needs.
There may be some benefits available to help you pay for home care, depending on your situation.
If you already have a carer, consider how they can help you to be more socially connected.
You might add a little more time to your care package so that they can take you to activities.
You may ask your carer to go for a walk with you, or go for lunch perhaps.
How to cope with loneliness: A new type of living situation?
Similar to this, you might consider moving into sheltered housing or a retirement village.
These are excellent options for those who want to live independently, but with support.
The advantage here is that you will be surrounded by people at the same life stage.
These people will likely have chosen supported living for similar reasons, so you will have something in common.
Often there are organised activities and chances to socialise frequently at these types of housing.
There will be activities geared for those of different levels of mobility and cognition.
Social activities that are simple and cheap
Try to get out of the house every day and go somewhere where there are other people.
It could be the library or to the supermarket, perhaps a busy park.
Sometimes just being amongst other people can help you feel more socially connected.
There are also visiting and befriending services available through charitable organisations.
This is where someone comes to your house for a chat once a week or so.
How to cope with loneliness - physical exercise strategies
Older people often find that they are not taking as much physical exercise as they once were.
A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to feelings of low mood and sadness as well as worsening health conditions.
It is a good idea to stay as active as you are able. Even better if you can do this in the company of like-minded folk.
Things to bear in mind:
- Many gyms offer senior membership discounts, and once retired you can attend at their less busy times.
- Most gyms offer classes as part of their packages, and will usually have senior-orientated classes.
- Swimming or aqua aerobics are excellent exercises, particularly for those with reduced mobility.
- Joining a regular aqua aerobics class or social swim is a great way to connect and stay fit and supple.
- For those with good mobility, joining a walking group could be a good option, particularly if you are able to be in nature.
- Yoga and pilates classes are often available for seniors at a reduced rate.
- Flexibility is a tremendous aid, particularly as we grow older. Keeping the joints supple can help to slow the need for arthritis care.
My confidence is low because I’ve been lonely
A lack of confidence is an understandable side effect of loneliness.
Generally, loneliness will creep up on us over a period of time.
If you experience loneliness after a bereavement, you may need time to grieve before you socialise again.
Grief and being out of social practice can easily knock the confidence – but bear in mind that everyone experiences loneliness at some point in life.
There are plenty of ways to get help to manage confidence and low mood.
Your GP will be able to provide counselling if you are experiencing grief or depression.
The surgery might have information on local groups for people in the same situation as you.
Taking it one day at a time
The council will also have information on local groups you can join. Don’t feel you have to do it all yourself, local services exist to support us when we need them.
Often we find that our confidence grows as we do something more.
If you have been feeling lonely for some time, plan to add social activities slowly. You might find that planning too much becomes overwhelming too.
Steps to feeling better
As we’ve shown in this article there are plenty of steps you can take to start feeling better and to get back into socialising in the company of others.
Whether you try joining a gym, regular calls with family, attending a day centre or finding a new hobby, there’ll be a good fit for you.
Just making small positive changes on a daily basis can have a huge impact on your quality of life.
There are so many ways to help you learn how to cope with loneliness and ease your isolation.
Remember you’re not alone and there are many organisations out there that can help if you feel you need some extra support.
The important thing is to reach out and start bringing companionship back into your life at your pace.
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