Loneliness is a major problem for over-60s. Generally, as we age we tend to get more isolated and that often leads to loneliness, which in turn can start a downward cycle into depression. That’s a very bad place to be, so it’s worthwhile taking steps to avoid this.
Loneliness is a complex mental and emotional circumstance. It’s likely we have all experienced some degree of loneliness and know full well the feelings that go along with it. Here are some simple tips for recognising loneliness for what it is and dealing with it in a healthy way.
Recognise the situation you are in. If you (or your parents) have no close friends, rarely leave the house, spend most days alone, don’t meet new people or attend social functions, it’s certainly time to take stock. There are some things you can’t change, but there are also some steps you can take to participate in social activities.
Make a plan to tackle your antisocial habits. It requires effort but by identifying the habits that are isolating you and then working on them one at a time to break down the barriers that are isolating you from the community.
Focus on others and be curious. Rather than focus on your own feelings or insecurities, focus your attention on other people. Show some interest in them and they will likely respond positively. People like talking about themselves, so ask questions about their lives and show some interest.
Use technology to stay connected. While old friends and relatives may live far away, modern technology makes it easy to keep in touch. Facebook, emails, Skype, FaceTime etc.are relatively easy and cheap to use. There are people and organisations that can teach older people how to use these technologies. You just need to ask around to find them.
Be a volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to get out and meet people. It’s alsogood for our self-esteem and enables us to ‘give back’ to the community. Most local councils have a list of organisations seeking volunteers.
Sign up for a class. What subjects interest you? It’s likely that there are classes teaching that subject at your local community college or U3A. Attending classes with other older people interested in learning more about a subject that interests you is a great way to meet new people. It’s also very good for our mental health as it keeps the brain active.
Join a club or association. There are a number of social groups catering for older people. Your local council could probably give you a list. Some of the national organisations with regional branches are — Probus, Council on the Ageing and National Seniors.