As we grow older, our vulnerability to loneliness greatly increases. Elderly partners and friends may pass away. Children go on to start families of their own. Retiring and leaving the social aspects of work behind. They’re all factors that may contribute towards feeling lonely. Loneliness can have a significant impact on wellbeing, but there are ways we can help.
Loneliness can greatly increase chances of health complications in the elderly. It has been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and dementia. Those who find themselves unexpectedly and suddenly alone, such as losing a partner or separation from friends and family, are at an even greater risk.
As we grow older we are susceptible to falls, which can unfortunately have a huge impact on our health. Falls can be extremely dangerous for an elderly person, especially if living alone. According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone. This also increases the risk of health complications as they may go unnoticed. Also, medication may be missed or taken irregularly if you don’t have someone to remind you.
Our mental wellbeing can be greatly affected through being alone, and loneliness has been associated with higher risks of depression, anxiety and suicide.
As we grow older, our friends, family and spouses may sadly pass away, this can lead to depression as a result of being alone. This may also impact an elderly person's ability to get out of their homes, as means of transport may now be limited.
As a society we have experienced the inability to go out or see loved ones during the coronavirus lockdowns, and so we can understand the effect that loneliness can have on our mental health. This becomes more significant during times of the year such as summer and celebrations, when we would usually expect to be socialising with others.
What to do if you or a loved one are isolated or lonely
There are many resources that can help the elderly to combat loneliness. Befriending services are available in many communities. Whether you prefer face-to-face or telephone communication, there’s bound to be something available. Social activities can also help towards combatting loneliness. Coffee mornings, pub lunches and quizzes are just a few activities many communities offer.
It is never too late to learn new skills, and many communities offer training such as IT training, language courses and fitness classes such as yoga. As an added bonus, many of these classes are free of charge and are available as part-time, day or weekend classes.
A very popular option to help the elderly socialise is day centres. These centres offer a variety of activities, from arts and crafts, singing and dancing and even day trips.
To find out about local activities, you could look at:
Later life may be the time to do things you may not have had the time to do when you were younger, such as:
Social media is a tool that should not be overlooked due to someone's age. As our virtual world grows, so do the resources. However, many people may find it overwhelming and not know where to begin.
There are many benefits to using social media, such as staying connected with family and friends. Whether your family is on holiday, lives far away or simply isn't able to see you face to face, social media can bridge that gap in communication via text or video chat, helping to combat loneliness.
As well as staying in contact with others, social media can also be a great tool to make new friends and connections. Communities tend to have local groups on social media regarding meet-ups, coffee chats or just a general way to stay engaged with those that live around us. Local news can also be a great way to be aware of any events. Unfortunately, many people may lose access to their hobbies and interests as they grow older, so another benefit of social media is that it can be a great way to reconnect with them by joining communities online, or just for researching ways we can reassess our hobbies at home.
As mentioned above, you may find it difficult to know where to begin with social media. Fortunately, many communities offer local IT training, or there are many easy-to-use guides online.
Have you noticed anyone that may be lonely in your area?
Unfortunately, there are many people that are struggling to combat their loneliness. This Loneliness Awareness Week, we want to highlight the importance that age does not define ability, and everyone is still able to maintain great relationships and social lives, no matter their circumstances.
As a Social Care Provider, we are acutely aware of the massively important role that our community carers play in ensuring those we visit feel supported, better connected to their community and the outside world and that our regular visits are often one of the few contacts our service users have with those outside their home.
If you’d like to help combat loneliness in your local community, view and apply for care jobs at Cera here.