During the isolation of COVID-19, many of us realised just how big an impact our social lives can have on our mental well-being. Even now, many of us struggle socially because of the time spent in lockdown.
It is no surprise that reports of loneliness have increased since 2020. This fact is especially concerning for the older generation, who are already vulnerable to loneliness. Older ones are more likely to experience loneliness because of a lack of interaction since retiring from work. It could also have to do with the loss of a loved one, or physical limitations due to poor health.
Loneliness can cause depression, a diminished sense of self-worth and feelings of despair. How can we prevent this? Below are 8 small changes you can make today that will help you stay connected, make new friends, and enhance your overall quality of life.
Join an exercise group or class
Participating in an exercise group or class is a great way to look after your physical health and meet new people. You can look for a class near you online, or check the notice boards at your local community centre or gym. Because most gyms host a variety of classes, you’ll likely find one suited to your age and experience.
Social media is a great way to stay in touch with old friends and make new ones. Through platforms like Instagram and Facebook, you can talk to your friends and share photos in real-time. Ask a family member or trusted friend to help you set up an account and encourage others in your circle to do the same.
Arts and crafts is a popular hobby among people of all ages. Creativity is a great way to engage your mind and de-stress. It also opens the way to a new community of like-minded people. You can join local art classes, and sell your hand-made work at craft fairs – meeting new people along the way.
Go to the pictures
Some cinemas offer cheaper tickets and exclusive movie screenings for seniors. This is a great way to connect with people in the community who share your circumstances.
Garden with others
If you have an allotment or community garden space, use this as an opportunity to connect with others. Ask around to see if your community has a gardening or allotment gardening group you can join. If you don’t have a garden, try taking an interest in the gardens of your neighbours or family members. People love to talk about their gardens and will often share homegrown goods with those who express an interest.
Join a book club
Taking part in a book club gives you something to focus on when you’re alone and is also a great way to make new friends. Visit your local library or community centre to find out if there is a club near you. If not, try starting your own club and advertising it among friends or on a local bulletin board. If you struggle to leave the house without assistance, you could host the book club in your home.
Writing letters is a great way to engage the mind and keep in touch with others. Ask your family members or friends who don’t live locally to be your pen pal or sign up for a pen pal program online.
Sign up for a telephone friendship service
Organisations like Age UK offer regular telephone friendship services for those over 60. All you need to do is tell them a bit about yourself and they will match you with a friendly volunteer that you can talk to weekly. This is a great way to make new friends without leaving your home.
Loneliness can have an impact on our mental well-being as we age, but there are many ways to combat it. You can make many new connections and friendships by incorporating simple activities into your routine, such as going to the cinema, joining a book club, or finding a pen pal.
Making an effort to be more social in your later years can lead to a greater sense of purpose, increased happiness, and improved well-being. So don’t hesitate to step out of your comfort zone and embrace the opportunities available near you. Remember, it’s never too late to be social and enjoy its benefits.