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Last updated: Wednesday 19th January  2022

Next update by Wednesday 2nd February 2022

PHOTOGRAPHER Kat Smith

Loneliness and isolation  in older people


Older people are especially vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation – and it can have a serious effect on health. But there are ways to overcome loneliness, even if you live alone and find it hard to get out.

Hundreds of thousands of elderly people are lonely and cut off from society in this country, especially those over the age of 75.

According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.

People can become socially isolated for a variety of reasons, such as getting older or weaker, no longer being the hub of their family, leaving the workplace, the deaths of spouses and friends, or through disability or illness.

Whatever the cause, it's shockingly easy to be left feeling alone and vulnerable, which can lead to depression and a serious decline in physical health and wellbeing.

Someone who's lonely probably also finds it hard to reach out. There's a stigma surrounding loneliness, and older people tend not to ask for help because they have too much pride.

It's important to remember loneliness can – and does – affect anyone, of any age.

Here are ways for older people to connect with others, and feel useful and appreciated again.


Information:Coronavirus advice

Get advice about coronavirus and looking after your mental wellbeing:

Smile, even if it feels hard

Grab every chance to smile at others or begin a conversation – for instance, with the cashier at the shop or the person next to you in the GP waiting room.

If you're shy or not sure what to say, try asking people about themselves.

Invite friends for tea

If you're feeling down and alone, it's tempting to think nobody wants to visit you. But often friends, family and neighbours will appreciate receiving an invitation to come and spend some time with you.

If you'd prefer for someone else to host, Re-engage is a charity that holds regular free Sunday afternoon tea parties for people over the age of 75 who live alone.

You'll be collected from your home and driven to a volunteer host's home for the afternoon. Apply online or call Re-engage on 0800 716 543.


Keep in touch by phone

Having a chat with a friend or relative over the phone can be the next best thing to being with them.

Or you can call The Silver Line, a helpline for older people set up by Esther Rantzen, on 0800 4 70 80 90.

You can also call Independent Age on 0800 319 6789, Age UK on 0800 055 6112, or Friends of the Elderly on 0300 332 1110 to receive a weekly or fortnightly friendship call from a volunteer who enjoys talking to older people.


Learn to love computers

If your friends and family live far away, a good way to stay in touch, especially with grandchildren, is by using a personal computer or tablet (a handheld computer).

You can share emails and photos with family and friends, have free video chats using services such as SkypeFaceTime or Viber, and make new online "friends" or reconnect with old friends on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter and website forums.

A tablet computer can be especially useful if you can't get around very easily, as you can sit with it on your knee or close to hand and the screen is clear and bright.

A sponge-tip stylus pen or speech recognition may help if the touchscreen is difficult for arthritic hands or fingers with poor circulation.

Libraries and community centres often hold regular training courses for older people to learn basic computer skills – as well as being a good place to meet and spend time with others in their own right.

Local branches of Age UK run classes in computing to help older people get to grips with smartphones, tablet computers and email.

Get some tips and advice on how to become more confident using the internet, including how to access your GP surgery online and how to look for reliable online health information.


Get involved in local community activities

These will vary according to where you live, but the chances are you'll have access to a singing or walking group, book clubs, bridge, bingo, quiz nights and faith groups.

Not to mention local branches of regional and national organisations that hold social events, such as the Women's InstituteRotaryContact the Elderly, and Brendoncare clubs in the south of England.

The Silver Line helpline (0800 470 8090) can let you know what's going on in your local area.


Fill your diary

It can help you feel less lonely if you plan the week ahead and put things in your diary to look forward to each day, such as a walk in the park or going to a local coffee shop, library, sports centre, cinema or museum.

Independent Age has published a guide about what to do if you're feeling lonely, which includes tips about activities you could try.

Download If you're feeling lonely: how to stay connected in older age (PDF, 2.97Mb) or order a free print copy by calling 0800 319 6789, or email advice@independentage.org.


Get out and about

Don't wait for people to come and see you – travel to visit them.

One advantage of being older is that public transport is better value. Local bus travel is free for older people across England.

The age at which you can apply for your free bus pass depends on when you were born and where you live.

Contact your local authority for more information on how to apply.

Use this State Pension calculator to find out the exact date when you can apply for your free bus pass.

For longer distances, train and coach travel can be cheap, too, especially if you book in advance online and use a Senior Railcard.

The Royal Voluntary Service can put you in touch with volunteers who provide free transport for older people with mobility issues or who live in rural areas with limited public transport.

Help others

Use the knowledge and experience you have gained over a lifetime to give something back to your community.

You'll get lots back in return, such as new skills and confidence – and, hopefully, some new friends, too.

There are endless volunteering opportunities that relish the qualities and skills of older people, such as patience, experience and calmness.

Examples are Home-StartSure Start, helping in a local charity shop or hospital, Citizens Advice, and school reading programmes.

Find out how to volunteer in your area on the NCVO website.


Join the University of the Third Age

The University of the Third Age (U3A) operates in many areas, offering older people the chance to learn or do something new.

Run by volunteers, U3A has no exams. Instead, it gives you the chance to do, play or learn something you may never have done before, or something you haven't considered since your school days.

U3A is also a great place to meet people and make new friends.

Find your nearest U3A



5 Tips For How To Help The Elderly With Loneliness

1. Purposeful Activities

Self Care – too many older adults ignore their own personal health and this can easily spiral into depression, isolation and of course loneliness. Participating in a daily activity of Tai Chi, Yoga, Chair Exercises or using a stationary bike or treadmill are all excellent ways to keep your body and mind healthy.Joining a group like Silver Sneakers can be of great benefit. And yes, it can be difficult these days with Covid-19 in our lives but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Going for a walk with 3 or 4 other seniors, wearing a mask and keeping socially distanced from each other can still be accomplished.Also, using Amazon’s Echo Show or Skype or Facetime to do your exercises at home WITH a friend is another excellent way to help combat isolation but still keep yourself active. Note that there are other video conferencing, communication services and tools as well.

Education – you truly are never too old to learn new skills! I have always firmly believed that being a perpetual student is the best defense against depression, anxiety and loneliness. The trick is to keep learning what you love to do.My father-in-law was a financial planner and 2 weeks before he passed away at the age of 92, he was still working with clients, still studying the art of financial planning, researching new investment vehicles, etc. He loved it and I do believe it kept him alive and excited about life.Of course, learning something new is also wonderful, a new language, a musical instrument, how to bake that perfect chocolate cake! Of course, as you are learning, I would recommend to pass on what you learn via mentoring!There are multiple companies providing online courses – one I can recommend is the International Open Academy – they seem to have a large array of courses!


2. Pets Can Give Purpose And Companionship

If your senior loved one is able to and is willing to care for a pet – then I highly encourage you to help them to adopt one. A cat, a dog, a bird, fish, whatever! Having the responsibility of caring for another living creature on a daily basis provides purpose to one’s life and additionally, some pets can certainly bring about a great deal of companionship to lonely people..


3. Scheduled Calls

I call my mom-in-law every Sunday morning. It’s our ritual. I look forward to these phone calls and I hope that she does too.

Having a scheduled “call date” can help many older adults get through the day. Knowing that they will be talking to someone at a specific time (especially if they live alone) can be something to look forward to.

If there can be multiple calls per week by different family members and friends – even better!

And of course – this doesn’t have to be just a phone call. Having a video chat is a nice way spend time with an elderly person because it is as close as you can get to being there with them.


4. Video Games

This may seem like a contrarian idea – playing video games to combat loneliness. After all, many adults have always heard that video games can encourage loneliness There are video games that seniors can play online with others and I would highly recommend it for any senior who is willing to give it a try. It can cost absolutely nothing and can lead to many hours of fun and stimulation.


5. Correcting Medical and Mental Issues Preventing Socialization

There are some medical and mental issues that may be keeping a senior person from attending some family functions or taking a walk with a friend. This could include…

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Incontinence
  • Joint pain
  • Back pain
  • Foot pain
  • Dry eye syndrome
  • There are many more – I would encourage you to look into these issues, speak with your doctor about them and see what can be done to alleviate these problems so that you can help your senior loved one to get out a little bit and socialize.


Taken from the NHS website

Photo by Magnet.me on Unsplash

The Neighbourcare Telephone Buddie Scheme was set up during the pandemic. Over 1000 people were contacted by telephone to check that they had the appropriate help that they required. 400 people during this time had regular telephone calls and prescriptions were also collected on their behalf. Most of these people are still receiving this assistance and this service is still ongoing. To obtain a Buddie, please call 01264 339899 and ask for Pam.

WELCOME TO ANDOVER NEIGHBOURCARE

Andover Neighbourcare is a local charity providing a wealth of services to the local and wider community.We offer help with Transport, Shopping, Cleaning, Gardening, Relieving carers and much much more.You can find us at 12 to 16 Union Street, Andover, Hants, SP10 1PAThe office is open from 9 to 4 or ring us on 01264 339899 / 404142 or 336020

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

Andover Neighbourcare is a local charity providing a wealth of services to the local and wider community.We offer help with Transport, Shopping, Cleaning, Gardening, Relieving carers and much much more.In addition we also offer on Monday Afternoon Tea & Games which are held at the United Reformed Church hall.More information about Andover Neighbourcare, our staff, volunteers, services, members and community shop can be found by simply clicking the relevant button in the menu on the top left hand side of this page. MEMBERSHIP SCHEME Our membership scheme cost just £20  per year or £30 per year for couples. Membership benefits include up to date information with what's happening at Andover Neighbourcare, parties, events and reduced rates on Mini Bus fares. Please use the contact form to register your interest, pop in to the offices or call 01264 404142.

Andover Neighbourcare has been asked about how people can donate on line to the charity. You can donate cash by going to localgiving.org/charity/andover-neighbourcare.Cheque donations can be sent to 12 Union Street made payable to Andover Neighbourcare.Cash donations can also be made at the office for which you will be listed as a friend of Neighbourcare.Donations for the charity shop can be collected if needed.Or if you only wish to give your time to help on any of the schemes we run please contact the officeMany thanks for your support.

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