As we head into the winter, the problem of loneliness grows more serious. With the cold weather, it can be much more difficult for people to get out – especially for the elderly. It is an issue that is becoming more and more apparent and something that needs to be tackled head-on by society as a whole.
According to Age UK, about 3.6 million older people live alone in the UK, and whether it is due to a reluctance to go out in the colder weather, fewer visitors, the loss of life partners or other reasons, it is not good for our health to be lonely, both mentally and physically, In fact, Age UK suggests that loneliness can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day for our health.
Age UK suggests loneliness can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day for our health
Loneliness isn’t just about being with other people. It is about being with the right people. With this in mind, what can we do to try to reduce loneliness in both ourselves and our loved ones – especially over the winter?
Look to a carer
There are many reasons why carers can help both the elderly and people with disabilities when it comes to reducing feelings of loneliness. There will almost certainly be tasks at home which are difficult to do, and a carer can be useful both in helping with these tasks as well as providing quality and much-needed company.
According to Helping Hands – who have been providing live-in care for over 30 years, “Companionship and social interaction goes hand-in-hand with home care, either in the form of regular home visits or a live-in carer. Whether it’s just the carer and your loved one having a cup of tea together or the former helping them to visit friends and attend local events, having someone to share stories with can make a huge difference in their lives.”
Take a holiday
Going on a short break can do wonders for your social life. Whether you are taking a small beak with your family, allowing you to spend time with your loved ones, or, indeed, going on your own and making new friends, a small holiday is a great way to break the perpetual cycle of everyday life and start to combat loneliness. Festive holidays in the UK are a great way to get out, be sociable, meet new people (even if you go away as a family) and add some Christmas sparkle to your life.
Join a Club
Combatting loneliness isn’t just about having people around you, it’s about having people around who understand you – and who you understand. A great way to meet people with similar interests is to join a club. For some people, this could be bridge, walking or a historical society. For others it could be a lunch club or afternoon tea group. For many of these groups, lifts can be organised to pick people up and take them home reducing the issues of physically getting out.
If you or your loved one are retired or unable to work, volunteering is another way that you can start to combat loneliness. Not only does this get you out of the house and interacting with other people, but it also is doing good for society and gives a feeling of achievement. Another bonus to volunteering is that you can do something that you are physically and mentally comfortable with whilst doing something for a good cause – and being around other kind-hearted people.
Some people do, however, struggle to be able to get out of the house for many different reasons. Fortunately, technology is helping us to get closer to people without necessarily the need to be with people physically. The internet has now made it easier than ever to talk to friends and relatives in different countries, for example. We are able to send short messages to each other just to check-up without the need for a long conversation, making regular contact easier. We can play online games together, which maintains contact without looking for conversation topics every day.
As each day goes by, technology is offering us up more and more solutions to help to combat loneliness. However, technology can also have the opposite effect and it is important that this is taken into consideration. Some social media, for example, can make us feel very isolated.
There are many reasons why some people feel lonely – and it’s not just about not having people around. As we head into later life, this can become more of an issue and it is important that we do what we can to reduce loneliness in society – especially in the winter.
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Written by Ella Hendrix
Ella is a versatile freelance writer, currently covering topics on family wellbeing, ageing matters and activities for the elderly.