How to Cope With Loneliness in Later Life

  • Published 23.01.2024

Staying Connected

by Nick Daws

As we get older, the prospect of spending more time alone becomes a reality for many people.

Loneliness can cast a shadow over our golden years. But with the right strategies and mindset, it’s possible to embrace this phase of life with enthusiasm and make new connections.

In this article, I’ll set out some practical tips to help cope with loneliness in your 60s and beyond.

Understanding Loneliness

Loneliness can affect anyone, and seniors are no exception. The loss of friends and loved ones (including perhaps your partner), retirement and health issues can all contribute to a sense of isolation. This in turn – if you don’t take action – can lead to depression, mental and physical health issues, and worse.

It’s therefore vital to recognise loneliness as a common aspect of later life, and take proactive steps to address it.

Community Engagement

Join Local Clubs and Societies. A wide range of clubs and societies exist, catering to different interests. Whether it’s a book club, gardening society or walking group, joining not only provides an opportunity to pursue hobbies but can also foster new friendships.

One popular social club for older people is U3A, which stands for University of the Third Age. U3A groups offer a wide range of classes and activities, covering subjects such as arts, literature, history, science, languages, fitness, and more. U3A aims to help older people stay engaged, connected, and mentally sharp. To find out more about groups in your area, search online for U3A plus the name of your nearest town or city. Most local U3As have a website using a standard template provided by the national organisation. Here is a link to the site for my local Lichfield U3A, for example.

Volunteer. Contributing to your community through volunteering can also be very fulfilling. Many charitable organisations actively seek the support of experienced individuals, and your skills could make a significant impact. If you’re not sure where to begin, your local volunteer centre or council for voluntary service (CVS) should be able to help.

Or Work Part-Time. This has many of the same advantages as volunteering, with the added bonus you get paid as well! Opportunities abound, from working part-time at a local supermarket or DIY store to consultancy work in your previous occupation. A useful resource for finding part-time work for older people is the Rest Less website.

Use Technology as a Connection Tool

Embrace Social Media. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter (or X as it’s called now) aren’t just for the younger generation. They can be powerful tools to reconnect with old friends, stay updated on family activities, and even join online communities with shared interests.

Join Virtual Events. Try attending virtual events, webinars or online classes. Many organisations now offer online options, allowing you to learn new things and meet people without leaving the comfort – and security – of your own home.

Strengthen Existing Relationships…

Family and Friends. Actively nurture existing relationships by reaching out to friends and family. Plan regular phone calls, video chats, and personal visits to maintain a strong support network.

  • Many older people (me included) like to meet up with friends and family for lunch, maybe at a local pub or cafe. Prices are often cheaper at lunchtimes, and you don’t have to worry about going home in the cold and dark.

Neighbourly Bonds. Likewise, build (or rebuild) connections with your neighbours. Simple gestures such as extending a friendly greeting, asking if they need any help, offering spare produce from your garden, or organising a neighbourhood gathering can build friendships and foster a sense of community.

…Or Create New Ones?

Dating Services. It might not be for everyone, but if you find yourself alone in later life, it’s never too late to look for romance again.

Online dating services aimed at seniors abound. Just search online for ‘dating for over 60s’ [or whatever] and plenty of options will present themselves. One such site is eharmony.

You needn’t (and probably shouldn’t) plunge in straight away. Take a bit of time to ‘window shop’ and see how people use these sites, how they describe themselves, the photos they post, and the sorts of messages they leave. Then, when you feel ready, try posting a profile yourself.

Physical and Mental Well-being

Stay Active. Regular physical activity not only promotes health (physical and mental) but also provides opportunities for social interaction. Consider joining local exercise classes or walking groups to stay fit and make new friends.

Mindfulness and Mental Health. Cultivate mindfulness practices, such as meditation or yoga, to help maintain good mental health. Local community centres often run free or inexpensive classes suitable for older people.

Seek Professional Support

Counselling and Therapy. If loneliness becomes overwhelming, seeking professional support can be immensely beneficial.

Counselling services are available across the UK to help individuals navigate emotional challenges. After my partner passed away I was offered free counselling at the hospice where she spent her last days. I found this very helpful for coming to terms with what had happened.

Health Services. Regular health check-ups and consultations are clearly a good idea as you get older and can also be an avenue for social interaction. Attend local health-related support groups and events to stay informed and meet like-minded individuals. Your GP practice should have information on what is available locally.

Closing Thoughts

Loneliness is something many older people face, but you don’t have to deal with it alone.

By actively engaging with your community, embracing technology, strengthening relationships and prioritising your mental and physical well-being, you can foster connections that bring joy and purpose to your later years.

Good luck, and stay connected!

Nick Daws writes for Pounds and Sense, a UK personal finance and lifestyle blog aimed especially at older people.

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