Loneliness is unfortunately a major issue in our society. Many older people choose to maintain the British ‘stiff upper lip’ and opt against speaking up or seeking companionship when they find themselves isolated. The death of a partner, decline in physical ability or distance from family members can make anyone feel isolated – but it doesn’t have to be that way. Our “Leave Loneliness Behind” campaign, with Dame Esther Rantzen, aims to raise awareness of loneliness and help everyone enjoy a happy, active retirement.
Our study of 1,000 retirement aged people highlighted that over 55% saw there being a stigma attached to admitting to being lonely – whilst one in four was ‘too ashamed’ to admit their feelings to others. Loneliness is not to be confused with being alone. Many of us enjoy our own company and choose to live alone but this does not mean we are lonely.
Those amongst us who have experienced it know that loneliness is the feeling of not belonging or feeling isolated. Chronic loneliness can have serious consequences for both mental and physical health, and letting go of the fear of being judged is the first step towards finding a solution.
We want to help break down the mental barriers that loneliness can create, and these practical ideas will help anyone who is feeling alone to change their mindset and lifestyle.
Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up
Reaching out to friends or relatives to talk about how you are feeling isn’t always something that feels comfortable, but there are services that specialise in listening and helping. The Silver Line Helpline was founded in 2012 by Esther Rantzen and is a 24hr, confidential and free service that offers information, friendship and advice for older people in the UK – they can even link their callers to local groups and services in their area that could help.
The charity even runs Silver Circles, which are group calls for people with shared interests. Silver Letters are also an option for those who are hearing impaired or prefer the written word to a phone conversation. Sometimes just picking up the phone to a family member or friend can help. You don't have to talk about how you're feeling, but hearing a friendly voice on the other end of the phone can do wonders for your mood.
Look for Like-minded People or Expand Your Horizons
One way to combat loneliness is to join up with other people who share your interests. Take some time to think about how you would enjoy spending your time and what you would enjoy even more with company. This could be anything! There are clubs and groups for just about everything, from bridge to book clubs, walking groups or even model making. Take a look on the noticeboards in the post office or supermarket. Also have a look in the local library and you’ll often find groups advertise in local newspapers as well. Here are a few ideas to try:
- Voluntary organisations or rotary clubs
- Night classes – like IT or life drawing
- Exercise classes or walking groups - many leisure centres and community hubs have classes especially for older attendees
- Gardening groups
- Meditation classes
You could make a more permanent change to your lifestyle; living alongside like-minded neighbours provides reassurance that there is always someone nearby to chat to or have a cup of tea with. Meanwhile, the regular group events at Churchill Retirement Living Lodges enable Owners to take part in a ready-made social life if they wish.
Embrace Technology to Maintain and Make Connections
Whilst learning to use new technology at any age can be tricky, once you’ve got the hang of it devices like smart phones or tablets can be used as a link to family and friends – especially if you have a camera! Whilst FaceTime or video call conversations are no substitute for visiting, they are a fantastic way to experience events and share life moments wherever your family or friends are in the world. Even mastering how to use Google is a great step in the right direction, as it can open up a new world of opportunities, both on and offline for making friends, staying in touch and finding new hobbies!
If you're feeling lonely or would like to find out more about our Leave Loneliness Behind campaign, click here for more information.
You can also make an appointment to visit one of our Lodges and meet our Owners and Lodge Managers, who will be able to tell you more about living in a Churchill retirement development. Give us a call on 0800 458 1856 for further details.