Loneliness in the elderly is unfortunately a far too common problem in today’s society. With Age UK stating that over 2 million people aged over 75 are currently living alone in England, it is an alarming rate which will, no doubt, continue to increase as the population grows.
There are many reasons why somebody can become lonely in old age including a death of a spouse or friend, leaving the workplace, loss of mobility or lack of transport. Sometimes loneliness can occur without any of these reasons, as it could be a result of Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Whatever the cause, it is important to understand ways to improve social interaction in the elderly.
If you are suffering from loneliness or are worried about a family member, friend or neighbour who is living alone there are many ways to help tackle loneliness, some of which we have highlighted below.
1. Spend time outside the house
If you can, try to spend some time outside of the home – a change of scenery can do wonders for your wellbeing.
If you feel isolated because you are unable to drive, there are free bus passes for the over 65’s which will allow you to easily take a trip to the shops or perhaps visit a friend. If you want to take a trip further afield, there are also Senior Railcards for the over 60’s which gives a third of rail fares during off peak times.
If you or a relative has limited mobility, there are community transports schemes around the country which offer door to door transport services which enables you to continue to live independently and participate in the local community.
All of our residential care or nursing homes across Shropshire, The Wirral and Cheshire welcome people on day care. Whether it is for a few hours or the best part of the day, you can join us for a meal, take part in our activities and spend time with likeminded people. You might also wish to join us for a weekly trip for shopping or sightseeing.
Respite stays allow people to develop friendships with the home and give people the much needed break from everyday life at home. Families often benefit too as they have usually been looking after their loved one for a long time and just need that little break away. Respite makes family visits more pleasant by reducing stress and anxiety.
2. The internet
Computers, especially the internet are great for improving social interaction in the elderly. For example, video chat programmes such as Skype and FaceTime provide easy ways to regularly keep in contact with friends and family who live far away. You may also be able to reconnect with old friends via Facebook or other social networking websites.
There are a variety of games to play online including brain training activities that are designed to improve mental capabilities which can slow down as a result of old age.
If you’re not comfortable using a computer, many libraries and local authorities often run basic computer courses for the elderly to help you feel confident about browsing the internet. These courses also provide an opportunity to meet new people.
3. Join local groups
There are a wide range of social groups organised for the elderly designed to help you get out and about and meet people who are in the same position as you.
To find what clubs and groups are available in your local area, check out your local newspaper or community notice boards. The types of groups and activities available will vary depending on where you live, but the chances are they’ll be a book club, knit and natter groups or bingo close by.
Some of our Springcare homes have designated sensory areas, which are accessed each afternoon and provide a safe but relaxing environment which helps to promote engagement and well-being whilst reducing anxiety and stress. It also encourages people to be together.
Many staff at our Homes are trained as a Dementia Friend and sessions are run throughout the year. Bucklow Manor in Knutsford are running a session on the 10th October 2017. A Dementia Friends Champion is a volunteer who encourages others to make a positive difference to people living with dementia in their community. They do this by giving them information about the personal impact of dementia, and what they can do to help.
4. Carry on learning
You’re never too old to learn a new skill and it is proven to be a great benefit on your health. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn a language or learn how to play an instrument, but have never had the time before. Learning a new skill will provide ways to distract your feelings of loneliness and keep your mind active in old age.
Volunteering is another great way of meeting people, give you something to look forward to and give you a sense of purpose in life. There are endless volunteering opportunities. You could volunteer in a local charity shop or an animal sanctuary.
Many of our friends and families of our Homes give up time to help run coffee mornings or events at the Home.
To find out what opportunities are available in your local area, visit gov.uk
If you would like any further help or advice with tackling loneliness there are a number or resources available to read in your own time including:
Age UK – http://www.ageuk.org.uk/
Campaign to End Loneliness – http://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/
Contact the Elderly – http://www.contact-the-elderly.org.uk/
Springcare Ltd – www.springcare.org.uk for more information on day care, respite, events and volunteering.