Feeling alone and being lonely are things we have all experienced. Reduced social contact, being alone, isolation and feelings of loneliness are associated with reduced quality of life. The lack of meaningful relationships and human contact can be devastating, with impacts ranging from depression to risk of early death. Perhaps surprisingly, social isolation and loneliness are prevalent across all ages, but is more common amongst older adults.
Loneliness refers to how individuals evaluate their level and quality of social contact, whereas social isolation can be more accurately measured for example by the number of social contacts the individual has.
Loneliness is common in carers, especially resident carers. Other high-risk groups include older married women, those in sheltered housing or older people who live with married children. Age UK cites, “loneliness is a massive issue for people in later life in the UK. Half of all people aged 75 and over live alone, and 1 in 10 people aged 65 or over say they are always or often feel lonely – that’s just over a million people.”
Much focus is put on physical activity and a balanced diet to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but a daily dose of social interaction is being recognised as an integral factor for positive wellbeing.
There are a number of fantastic projects to improve social connectedness amongst older adults. For example the HenPower project, AgeUK befriending service and Be A Friend Today. The NHS page outlines a few helpful tips such as invite friends for tea, smile even when you’re really not feeling like it, and get involved in local community activities. Loneliness seems to be less prevalent in rural areas where there is a sense of community. Positive mind and actions go a long way, and reaching out and asking for a helping hand. There are also lots of projects to get involved in and help others, check them out at the Campaign to End Loneliness.
Here are some ideas for community activities for all ages:
- Adult education classes such as painting and creative writing.
- Joining a book club at the local library
- Involvement in community action such as Good Neighbour Schemes
- Participate in local activities and outings.
- Create a club of a few people with shared interests such as gardening or tea!
And most importantly, don’t go it alone! A friendly face could be right next door.