Dealing with loneliness
Why is it important for everyone to have regular contact with other people?
For one thing, it is important for our mental health. Social contact helps us to cope with stress and major life changes. Knowing that we are valued by others is an important psychological factor in helping us to think more positively about our environment. There is also compelling evidence to suggest human contact is vital as a motivation to look after our physical health.
Social connection is one of the five key ways to maintain positive emotional health. The Five Ways to Wellbeing are to: Connect, to Give, to Take Notice, to Keep Learning and to Be Active. More information can be found on this page of the NHS website.
The opportunities for social contact are slowly increasing as government restrictions are reduced. If appropriate, you can:
- Socialise whenever you can. Even if it’s just a short conversation with the cashier at the supermarket, or the person next to you in the waiting room at the dentists
- Invite friends or family over. You may feel they don’t want to visit you, especially younger relatives, but they will appreciate an invitation to spend some time with you. If you do not feel it is appropriate to invite someone in yet, you could consider going for a walk or meeting in a park.
- Simply having a chat with a relative or friend over the phone can be a good way to reduce the stress of being alone.
- Learn to use computers. If your friends and family live far away, services such as Skype, FaceTime, Viber, Facebook, and Twitter can help you keep in touch.
- Get out and about. One advantage of being older is public transport is better value.
- See what groups and activities there are in your local area.
Many people suffer from loneliness, often if they don't have family or friends who live nearby or when long-term friends or partners have died. Loneliness can have a negative effect on your health.
Volunteers, known as befrienders, can help. Sometimes the volunteer can visit you in your home, or you might like to be called on the phone at a certain time each week.
National organisations and charities that offer social activities and support
There are many national organisations and services that provide support through welfare/wellbeing calls. These include both general and more specialised services.
The Silver Line is a UK wide helpline and friendship service for people aged fifty five and over. It operates as a confidential, free helpline and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, and all year.
They also offer telephone friendship where they match volunteers with older people based on their interests. They have facilitated group calls and help to connect people with local services in their area.
Independent Age is for anyone over the age of sixty and is run by volunteers. People who wish to use the service can sign up for as long or short a time as they wish and will catch up with their volunteer at a regular time that suits both parties. If the volunteer assigned isn't working out as hoped, then Independent Age will find a replacement. This service is also free.
Reengage is a national charity committed to older people being heard, valued and engaged. They aim to bring older people together in social groups and use the power of volunteering to enable older people to make new friends and break out of the cycle of social isolation and loneliness. They have also developed using telephone befriending services to support older people in the community.
Age UK is for people over sixty. The telephone befriending service provides companionship and support to housebound older people living alone in the community. To sign up to this service, the individual must have their own landline or mobile phone, be able to hear and be understood over the phone and be able to commit to a regular weekly call at the same time.
Staff are working from home and are also available for help and support or just a chat. Several of the usual groups are continuing to meet online or by telephone to offer social and practical support. The Organisation also offers a 'Talking Space' counselling service which is continuing to operate on a reduced basis via telephone.
Action for Elders is a national charity that works with local people to make a difference to their quality of life, whatever their circumstances. They offer a number of activities online through their Balanced Lives programmes, including a tailored Youtube channel that provides videos on mobility, exercises and wellbeing.
They provide free resources and activities such as digital guides on using Zoom and Skype for communication, free loan of tablet computers and wifi dongles.
They also have several social activity groups, including a Book Circle, Jigsaw Circle and Afternoon Tea Party Circle. There is also the chance to have peer to peer conversations through their Telephone Trees.
Ability Net ITCanHelp volunteers provide free IT support to older people and people with disabilities of any age. Their volunteers can support people located anywhere in the UK. They are all disclosure-checked and can help with all sorts of IT (information technology) challenges, from setting up new equipment, fixing technical issues, showing you how to stay connected to family and use online services.
You can request their support by:
- Using the 'Request our help' form below
- Calling our helpline on 0800 048 7642 (freephone and minicom) during UK office hours
- Sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org