Approximately 10% of the population aged over 65 is chronically lonely, equating to over 860,000 people in England alone (ONS 2012).
Loneliness might be a temporary feeling, or it can linger, staying with you for a long time. If feeling lonely becomes a constant state of being, it affects health and well-being.
Knowing how to feel less lonely can help you, or a loved one to feel less isolated and happier. There are things you can do to help combat loneliness.
It’s possible to learn skills that help you to manage feeling lonely. These need to be worked on regularly until you feel more comfortable with doing different things. Eventually, you will feel much better, make new friends, or be able to overcome those fleeting feelings of loneliness more easily.
Talk with people
When you are already feeling lonely and perhaps a bit low, it can be difficult to talk to people. However, once you start having a chat with someone, you begin to feel less alone. Sitting and thinking about how lonely you feel will only make it worse. It’s always best to catch up with friends or family on the phone or to visit them where possible.
One in four older people may not have many people they can call. Esther Rantzen has launched Silverline which is a free and confidential helpline, offering friendship as well as information and advice.
The internet has proved to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation for many people. Even if you are unable to get out and about so much, the internet is always there. You can find forums to engage with others, who may be in a similar situation to you.
For older people, Gransnet is a fun and engaging online community to join. There are also many different social media options that you can use to find some online friends.
Connect with nature
Nature has a great way of helping us feel more connected with the earth and each other. Spending as little as ten minutes a day with nature can significantly improve feelings of well-being.
- Go for a walk in a local park
- Spend a few hours gardening or tending to a local allotment
- Start a kitchen herb garden
- Join a rambling group
- Help out at an animal rescue centre
- Get a pet like a cat or a dog
Keeping busy is a great way to avoid feeling lonely. You may be able to get help to be busy so check out what financial help you might be entitled to with your local council.
- See what local activities are happening, there are often coffee mornings in most places which are regular events where you can meet people and make new friends.
- Think about what hobbies you might want to take up or continue.
- Do you have skills that you could teach to others?
- Could you volunteer with any local organisations?
- Is there a local class you could sign up to and learn something new?
Planning your week
Plan things for the week ahead, make a list of things to do, places to go and people to see, as this can help you to keep looking forward to things. Even if you have some space in your plan where you don’t see anyone, you’ll still have that next activity on the list to enjoy.
Let people in
Often, lonely people feel anxious about making new friends or meeting new people. We can all have negative feelings sometimes, but often, this is over-amplified by thinking too much with all that time alone. Be brave, get out there and you will soon wonder what you were worrying about.