Loneliness can impact us all, and most of us that are honest with ourselves will admit to having suffered from it at one point or another. Loneliness is also particularly prevalent in the older population, turning what should be the golden years of one’s life into something far more morose.
Of course, as we develop in age, as loved ones come and go, as children fly the nest, loneliness has an improved chance of creeping into our lives, but there are ways to help avoid this state of affairs, there are things that can be done, by both old and young, to help avoid loneliness in older age. With this in mind, we have developed the below infographic, full of advice for those impacted by loneliness, with stats highlighting the seriousness of the issue.
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Please include attribution to Monarch Mobility with this graphic.
We hope that you will find the above infographic useful and will be able to utilise some of the advice contained within to avoid loneliness and help those that you know who might be suffering from loneliness in their older age.
To delve even further into the subject, we spoke to Sylvia Silver, the executive director of NAPA (National Activity Providers Association), who are dedicated to spreading the word on the need for activity among older people. Sylvia explained to us how important the task of tackling loneliness in older age really is:
“Loneliness in older age can have a significant impact on health and well-being. Some people are content in their own company but for many having social connections makes a big difference to their quality of life.”
Sylvia also was able to offer her advice for those wanting to avoid loneliness in the later years of life, mentioning the difficulties facing those with reduced mobility who might depend on helpful equipment such as mobility scooters and wheelchairs:
“Avoiding loneliness can be a real challenge as it tends to creep up on you slowly. Some older people have physical challenges that makes getting out to see people a real effort. Others may have lost confidence and feel that they can’t take that first step of meeting up with others.
“I would advise anyone looking ahead to make the effort to keep social connections going even if that only means phoning friends regularly or staying in touch by email. Getting to know the neighbours also takes some effort but it will pay off in later life if your horizons have shrunk. Offering to take in parcels or feed the cat could lead to a reciprocal arrangement to support you in the future if needed.”
And regarding how others can help those that might be dealing with loneliness, Sylvia has some top tips to offer: “Offering your time is the best thing you can do. Sometimes just listening over a cup of tea can break the monotony for a lonely older person. Resist listing great ideas for things they could do as that can be overwhelming and could be seen as patronising. Tap into their existing interests. If a person has a collection of books and seems to enjoy reading, offering to go with them – not take them – to the library or bookshop might be very welcome.”
In 2014, Iriss – a charity that promotes positive outcomes for those who make use of Scotland’s social services – published an evidence summary on loneliness and isolation in older people. The summary makes a number of very interesting points, for example: “While the evidence around which interventions are most effective in alleviating loneliness and isolation has limitations, we know that flexible support, ideally based within the community, and developed with the involvement of older people is effective. Group activities are also especially helpful.”
For those worried about the onset of loneliness in those around them, this passage from the Iriss summary is particularly salient: “For older people the onset of loneliness can happen gradually, sometimes preceded by a specific life event, especially one associated with loss, such as retirement, or bereavement.”
For further insight into the issues discussed in this article, please do read the full summary by Iriss on preventing loneliness and social isolation in older people. We also recommend taking a look at these prompt cards by Iriss for preventing loneliness – they would be especially useful for social workers.
My Ageing Parent
My Ageing Parent is another website that might prove useful to many. Set up by Alex Ingram and Deborah Stone, the site aims to help individuals look after the elderly. A great resource of information on a variety of issues, there is also a forum present where users can discuss the problems they are facing.
My Ageing Parent really understands the importance of addressing loneliness in older people and believes that we all need to stop and think about the elderly around us, especially if we have parents that are living alone.
As previously mentioned, we don’t just want to help older people deal with the issue of loneliness. To really tackle the problem, it will take a combined effort from society, with relatives in particular helping out their ageing parents and grandparents. Mommybites, a wonderful resource of knowledge and information for the parenting community, know all about the importance of family support in dealing with this issue. As a result, we were delighted to hear from them about how they believe younger generations can help:
“In our increasingly mobile society, different generations of families may not live in the same city – or even in the same country. As parents, we may worry about our own older parents or grandparents who might be struggling with feelings of loneliness. Moreover, we want to ensure that our little ones can learn from – and stay connected with – their grandparents (or even great-grandparents). We at Mommybites are strong advocates of using modern technology to stay in touch with family far and wide.”
Statistics regarding loneliness in older age
As mentioned above and in our infographic, this issue is a prevalent one, illustrated as such by the following statistics:
- Age UK say that more than 2 million people over 75 live alone in England.
- Age UK also say that more than a million older people go more than a month without speaking to friends, neighbours, or family members.
- The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness has found that nearly three-quarters of older people in the UK are lonely and half have not spoken to anyone about how they feel.
- Gransnet has found that seven in 10 people with an average age of 63 say that their friends and family would be surprised to learn that they felt lonely.
Advice on how to avoid loneliness in older people
Hopefully the issue of loneliness facing this section of the population can soon be tackled as much as possible by communities up and down the country. Before we leave you, here is a last reminder of the advice contained within our infographic:
- Smile and be open to friendly conversations even when you might not feel like doing so. It’s important to put out positive vibes as you never know where it might lead.
- Invite friends and family to social gatherings such as tea and dinner. Sometimes people just need an invitation and it can soon turn into a regular get together.
- Make sure to stay in touch with loved ones via the phone. Talking about your day, favourite TV shows, and other day to day occurrences can be very beneficial.
- Get out of the house even when you’re not feeling up to it and make use of bus passes, railcards, and charities like the Royal Voluntary Service who provide free transport for those with mobility issues.
- Try and fill out your calendar with things to look forward to. Plan out your week and month with simple things like a walk, spending time with family, or visiting the local library.
- Engage with your local community: becoming involved with clubs, church groups, games and quiz nights is a great way to keep busy and to meet new people.
- Utilise computers and technology: by emailing relatives, speaking on Skype, or chatting and sharing photos on Facebook, you can stay in touch and involved with those that are far away.