Loneliness is a growing problem here in the UK, affecting more than 1.4 million older Britons. At current rates, these numbers will only continue to grow the UK population ages. Of course, the coronavirus pandemic has led to a huge increase in people feeling lonely some or most of the time. Lockdown requires people of all ages to stay in their homes and avoid meeting up with loved ones in order to stop the spread of Covid-19. Today's article will share eight ways to combat loneliness. We'll also examine the causes of loneliness and the health risks it poses.
Causes of Loneliness
We all feel lonely from time to time, but everyone experiences loneliness differently. While one person might be perfectly content to live by themselves without much social contact, someone else might feel lonely even when they are surrounded by other people. Before we learn to combat loneliness, it's worth thinking about what causes us to feel lonely. The specific causes of loneliness are difficult to pinpoint. We know that certain life events can make people feel lonely, such as bereavement, retirement, moving to a new area, or the end of a relationship. Similarly, lots of people report feeling lonely at Christmas, or on the anniversary of a loved one's passing, for example.
Furthermore, there are particular groups of people who are more likely than others to feel lonely. These include carers and single parents, those who are estranged from family, those who have mobility problems, people in poverty, and those who experience or have experienced discrimination due to their gender, sexuality, race, or disability. People who work from home may also be more susceptible to feelings of loneliness.
Effects of Loneliness
Research suggests that loneliness can have a range of impacts on both our physical and mental health. Feeling lonely can put us at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, depression, alcoholism, and stress. Loneliness can also have knock-on effects which can be equally harmful. On average, adults who feel lonely exercise less, eat more fat in their diets, and get less good-quality sleep than those who do not feel lonely.
The stigma around loneliness means it can be hard to reach out for help. This can become a vicious cycle, potentially leading to depression and other mental health issues.
8 Ways to Combat Loneliness
If you haven’t already, buy a smartphone and make the most of the internet. Technology is a great way for people to reach out and connect with others who share similar interests, backgrounds and goals. Since the pandemic began, technology has become even more central to the way we communicate. Technology can help you combat loneliness by keeping you connected to the people you love.
Join online communities or social media pages that interest you to access a wealth of knowledge and forge new friendships. Take the time to learn how to text, use social media and email so you can easily keep in touch with friends and family on a daily basis. Video calls are particularly useful for keeping in touch with loved ones.
2. Make the Most of Local Transportation
Many people suffer from loneliness because they don’t have access to public transportation or other local services. If you can, combat loneliness by providing rides, finding a local taxi service, or helping someone learn the ins and outs of the public transportation system so they can maintain their independence and relationships.
As well as a convenient mode of transport, cycling is a great way for older people to stay active.
Another great way to prevent or combat loneliness is to get involved and help out others who may be in a similar situation to you. If you are lonely, sign up to spend a few hours helping at a local animal shelter, reading with children at a nearby school, delivering meals on wheels to people with limited mobility, foster pets for a rescue group, or volunteer for any other cause that you feel passionate about.
The possibilities are limitless!
4. Grow Something
Whether you have a nice garden already or use an allotment in the community, get outside and grow something. Even if you only have space for a pot or two on the windowsill, gardening offers lots of health benefits. The fresh air, green space, and interaction with fellow gardeners is a great way to combat loneliness. If you have excess produce, consider donating it to a food bank.
Did you know that simply being around flowers can benefit your mental health?
5. Take up a New Hobby
One of the top ways to combat loneliness is to rediscover our passions or interests. Hobbies are a great outlet for people of all ages. There are lots of options for people with limited mobility and our projects even allow us to set goals or think ahead. For example, we can look forward to adding a rare stamp to our collection or learning a new knitting pattern. To help find a hobby, consider the following ideas:
6. Join a Club or Organisation
Joining a club, library, or religious organisation is a great way to meet new people. Take a free class, sign up for a chess league, or join a book club. Many of these organisations even offer transportation to and from events, you just need to ask. What's more, many of these groups have moved online during the pandemic. This means that you'll be able to interact with other people from the safety and comfort of your own home.
7. Take Advantage of Smart Assistants like Alexa on the Amazon Echo
This top tip follows closely with embracing technology, but this type of tech allows you to use your voice to control a device and appliances in your home with simple commands or normal speech. The great thing about these programs and devices is they don’t require a lot of training to operate. You simply talk. They rely on a smart speaker which is your in-home smart assistant and an internet connection.
She is also great for asking questions, playing your favourite music, keeping up on football scores, ordering products, keeping track of schedules, reminding you to refill prescriptions, notifying you about upcoming appointments and much more.
8. Get a Roommate or Relocate to a Retirement Housing Scheme
More than 2 million elderly people in the UK live by themselves. Living alone can be a key factor in feeling lonely. While the tips above are certainly helpful, some people may just feel the need to be around other people more often. If you have a spare room in your house, you may want to consider taking in a lodger. Alternatively, there are retirement schemes with shared communal areas that help foster friendships between residents.
These arrangements provide independence, social activities, access to healthcare and social care resources which make it easy for us to drop in for a cup of tea or pick up a game of cards with our friends or family.
Combat Loneliness and Stay Safe
We hope that these tips can help you to combat loneliness and create more of a social calendar once the Covid-19 pandemic has passed. If you are living alone, it may be a good idea - especially during these uncertain times - to take a look at our life-saving personal alarm service. Having an alarm ensures that you can call for help if you have a fall or feel unwell at home, whether it's during the day or in the middle of the night.
For more information on purchasing a personal alarm, please speak to one of our friendly advisors on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, complete our contact us form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Got your own tips to combat loneliness? Share them in the comments below.
Editor's Note: This article was updated on 3rd September 2021 to reflect current information. Originally published in May 2018.