Loneliness is a normal human emotion and we all experience it; it is simply a sign of wanting contact with people. It is not a personal failing and it’s important not to blame yourself for feeling this way. There are things that we can all do ourselves to help prevent it.
If you have been feeling lonely for a while, a first step is to notice and identify this, even if just to yourself. This can help you can think about what you could do to help yourself, or how to ask for help from others.
The experience of loneliness is deeply personal; both its causes, the individual circumstances and consequences, and so it is difficult to give you a ‘catch all’ solution to how you can address your own loneliness.
However, if you think you are feeling lonely, older people have told us that the following have helped them:
- Think about yourself – think about what you would like more of – maybe time with friends or family, if so invite them to visit. Often if you are lonely you think people do not want to visit. This is understandable but often people will respond to an invitation and will come and spend quality time with you.
- Look after yourself – if you can do something to improve your health, take small steps to eat well, take gentle exercise and keep active, all of these things can help you to relax more fully in your own company.
- Share your skills and time with others – you can offer time or specific skills by helping out in your street, neighbourhood or with local organisations. You could volunteer with the Royal Voluntary Service, Sense or Independent Age who support older people.
- Your community and neighbourhood – find out what local activities are being planned and book them up: walks, singing groups, book clubs and bridge. For example, Contact the Elderly and the University of the Third Age have a wide range of local social groups and activities across the UK. You can also call The Silver Line helpline on (freephone) 0800 4 70 80 90 for information, advice or just for a chat, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
- Some people have told us that meditation, or practising something known as ‘mindfulness’ (a technique that helps people to change the way they think and feel about their experiences – especially stressful experiences – and is recommended as a treatment for some people with mental health problems including stress, anxiety, and depression) can help. You can learn more about this on the Mental Health Foundation website: http://bemindful.co.uk/
- Speak to a health worker if you feel very lonely – long term loneliness could contribute to later depression and other health problems. Your GP should be able to direct you to local services.
Some useful resources:
- Order a free guide: Independent Age have produced a Wise Guide called Healthy, happy, connected – support and advice for older people living alone. This will help you to find free groups and classes in your local area, discover volunteering opportunities and suggest ways of getting the most out of life. Order your free copy by calling 020 7605 4225 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you think your parent might be lonely: take a look at the follow When They Get Older Loneliness Guide
Of course, there are many circumstances that make it difficult to leave the house to get involved in outside activities, such as disability and sensory loss, loss of confidence, caring responsibilities and poor health. But there is support available, such as:
- community transport,
- befrienders who share you interests and can come and see you at home,
- telephone befrienders,
- telephone book groups
- Contact the Elderly’s tea parties,
to name but a few, and there are people in your local area who would love to hear from you. We advise getting in contact with organisations like your local Age UK, Independent Age, Royal Voluntary Service, or The Silverline. For people of all ages, there is SupportLine and specifically for men there is also the Calm Zone
If you would like to help others who you fear might be lonely:
We would encourage anyone who wants to reduce loneliness to join the Campaign to End Loneliness by visiting www.campaigntoendloneliness.org.uk.
Get in contact with older friends and relatives at times when the might be feeling lonely, such as on Sundays and Bank Holidays, or Christmas and Easter.
Support your older neighbours; offer to take them shopping or other help with transport, say hello to them and invite them for tea, provide them with help with IT and support them to learn how to use the internet
Look at the suggestions above for people feeling lonely and support your older friends and relatives to take action