As we get older, our ability to socialise in ways that we once took for granted changes. Things like mobility, living away from friends or family, or the loss of friends or loved ones, can make it difficult to get enough company and stimulation.
This helps explain why loneliness is common amongst retirees. One in five people over the age of 65 feel some degree of persistent loneliness.
Here are some ways that you can address loneliness. Some are actions or activities; others are just a matter of changing your perspective.
Be proactive; seek out a friend or loved one
Inviting someone over (especially someone that you have not seen in a while) is a positive action that is likely to be gladly received. Start by asking a neighbour or relative to come in for a cup of tea. They are likely to reciprocate!
Keep in contact by phone
If mobility or distance is an issue, phoning is an easy way to get round this. Ring family members, contacts, or arrange a conversation with a friendly volunteer (via Age Concern or a similar group). Get a mobile phone so you can text your friends or family members. Young people will be happy to help you get started.
Use the internet
The internet allows you to be in contact anywhere, anytime. Smartphones, tablet computers, or laptops give you instant access to news, your library, online dating, chat rooms, or hobby groups. Social media tools — such as Facebook, Twitter, as well as Skype and Facetime — are useful for keeping in touch with children and grandchildren. If you need extra help using computers and the internet, Senior Net offers classes for seniors.
Rekindle with the community
Local groups welcome new faces and may be able to provide transport. Service groups like Lions, Rotary and Probus all offer transport to regular meetings. Community groups and clubs offer opportunities to pursue hobbies and passions. Read your community newspaper to find local groups or just to see what’s on in your area.
Research shows that the simple act of doing something for others produces endorphins in the brain that act as natural painkillers and make us feel good. You might be able to help a neighbour or friend with their shopping, gardening, child-minding or learning to use a computer. Using your experience and wisdom to give back to others is an incredible gift to give. Services such as Family Works, Family Help Trust, Barnardos, Citizens Advice Bureau and Volunteering New Zealand offer ways that seniors can work to help others.
Learn something new
The internet offers free online courses often provided by respected universities, and lectures by interesting speakers (TED talks), radio interviews and much more. The University of the Third Age (U3A) holds seminars, field trips and social activities, giving members the option to teach or take classes. Libraries, museums, secondary schools, genealogy groups and hobby clubs often have classes, open days, guest speakers and other opportunities to join in and try something new.
Go for it!
Trying some of these ideas to enrich your life and combat loneliness can be life-changing, bringing new friends and fun into your life.