The NHS reports that more than a million older people are lonely and cut off from society in this country. There are a number of reasons older people are more prone to isolation – it could be the loss of a spouse or partner, family moving away with busy lives of their own, ill health or a lack of resources to get out and about. If you are worried a friend or family member may be suffering from loneliness, here are some signs to look out for and ideas to help them.
Signs Of Isolation
Many elderly people will suffer loneliness in silence, so it can be hard to tell if a loved one is feeling isolated. Here are some of the main signs to look out for which could indicate an older person needs help.
Your elderly friend or relative may be too proud to directly say they’re feeling lonely. However, they may drop hints such as saying they wish they could see you more, that they miss certain people or that they don’t want to be a hassle. These are all signs to listen out for. If your loved one is using this language, it’s a good idea to check in with them on how they’re feeling and if they need help.
Someone who is lonely may find it really difficult to reach out to others. People suffering from loneliness will often isolate themselves further and completely withdraw. They may be reluctant to go anywhere or do anything. If this is unusual behaviour for them, this could be a sign they are suffering from isolation.
General Health Complaints
Loneliness can have a severe impact on physical and mental health. If you notice an older person regularly complains they’re feeling under the weather or if they mention feeling ill where they have no physical symptoms, this could be a side effect of being lonely.
Loss Of Appetite
Meals can be the time people are most aware of being alone. Consequently, older people living alone may begin to loose the motivation to cook meals just for one. If you notice an elderly relative is eating less and skipping meals due to loneliness, invite them over for dinner or show up with groceries to help them prepare a meal.
People suffering badly from loneliness can turn to substances such as alcohol and prescription drugs as a coping mechanism. If you notice this in an older person, encourage them to seek help from their doctor or a counsellor.
What Can You Do
Luckily there are lots of things you can encourage your elderly friend or relative to do to combat loneliness. Here are just a few ideas which could help, and there are many more available:
Try A New Hobby
When people retire from work, they often feel lonely without the daily interaction they had with coworkers. Trying a new hobby is a great way for retired people to get out and about and meet like-minded people. It could be practising a musical instrument, joining a book group or learning a new language. Having a hobby is a great way to pass the time and add a focus back to life after retirement.
Keep In Touch With Friends and Family
If you have an older family member you are concerned about, try reaching out to them. Making regular plans to see them will go a long way to alleviate any feelings of loneliness. For example, planning a meal together on a regular date, such as every second Sunday, will add something for them to look forward to and give them a sense of security. If you live far away, a phone call or online message could make all the difference, and you get the comfort of knowing how they are!
Volunteering can be incredibly fulfilling. Many older people enjoy volunteering as it allows them to meet new people and form friendships with others in their community. Whether it’s a few hours at a local charity shop, or dishing up food at a local soup kitchen, volunteering will combat feelings of isolation by connecting in with the heart of a community.
Adopt A Pet
It’s hard to feel lonely with a friendly dog or cat around the house! Pets offer unconditional love and companionship, and adopting a pet could be the perfect cure for loneliness. A pet could be particularly helpful for those who are living alone with limited mobility and resources to get out and about.
Careline Personal Alarm
If you are worried about a loved one who is living alone, a Careline Personal Alarm can help. You can rest assured there will always be someone there for them in an emergency, but if you have any questions about the service, please get in touch. Our Customer Service Team can be reached on 0800 101 3333 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re suffering from isolation and need help, the Silver Line is a free confidential helpline. It’s open 24 hours a day, and you can call them anytime on 0800 4 70 80 90.