Loneliness in the elderly is a very prevalent issue in the UK, particularly over Christmas. Age UK found in 2021 that "Well over a million older people expect to be lonely this Christmas". Estimated that year at a worryingly large number of 1.4 million.
For many people, a phone call at Christmas is the best Christmas present they can receive so we felt that sharing some tips on how to help your loved one stay connected would go a long way towards tackling the loneliness pandemic. Staying connected has such a huge impact on our well being that we really encourage finding new and creative ways to stay connected with your older friends and relatives. Even something as small as a text to remind them you're thinking of them can make such a huge difference, particularly if your loved one lives further afield.
1 - Go For a Walk
Going for a walk can be a great way to socialise with other added benefits. It doesn't have to be far and should always be within what you and your loved one can manage. Perhaps if mobility is a struggle you could just sit outside in the garden, or take a taxi and sit in the local park. Why not even arrange to sit with the neighbour and have a good conversation over a cup of tea?
Staying active within your physical ability can help keep you independent for longer, especially as you get older. Getting fresh air in the warmer times of the year is also good for our physical health, ensuring we are exposed to more vitamin D which is really good for our skin.
2 - Make a Phone Call to a Friend or Relative
Making a phone call regularly to a friend or relative can really help to improve feeling connected and benefit relationships and friendships. Even a 30 minute call once a week can have a huge impact and for many elderly relatives and friends can become a real highlight that they regularly look forward to.
Talk about happy and positive things, even the weather (and even if it's raining!) You could also incorporate sensory aspects into the call such as 'I love the sound of the rain, especially with piano music playing, it reminds me of a warm and cosy coffee shop I used to enjoy visiting'. Engaging the senses acts as both a really good practice grounding technique that can help to relieve symptoms of anxiety but also a way to engage more in depth conversations even over the smallest of topics.
3 - Read the Local Newspapers and Keep Up to Date With Things Happening Locally
It can be difficult sometimes to know what to talk about, so reading the newspaper and keeping up to date on local topics can often be really good ice breakers to help get the conversation started, particularly with those who struggle to know what to say back.
Being in the know on news that your loved one will also likely be following really helps to encourage conversations naturally and gives space to allow them to share their thoughts and feed into the conversation as well to better encourage a balanced mutual 'two-way' chat.
4 - Join a Local Community Group of Coffee Morning
Local community groups and coffee mornings are a fantastic way to meet new people, form new friendships and to have an event to look forward to regularly. Particularly for those who don't have many opportunities to leave the house this can be a great way to keep someone's social connections open and growing.
Often, particularly near to Christmas there are loads of craft workshops and activities too! Getting involved in these are a great way to keep mentally engaged and connected over winter where loneliness in older people is often higher.
5 - Encourage Your Loved One to Read Stories for Children
Reading stories to children can be a really good activity that offers a sense of responsibility and can be really beneficial for the children too! Particularly for those who have grandchildren. You could even support your loved one to arrange to come and read stories at the local nursery, church or primary school through a volunteering scheme if this is something they have expressed they may be interested in.
There are lots of ways of going about this so don't be afraid to get creative. Reading to others can be beneficial at any age too! Why not start a weekly book reading and take it in turns to read a book of interest with and to each other? The possibilities are endless.
Remember: Loneliness in older people is a huge statistic still in the UK, and many people who struggle with loneliness are those who don't have many family connections or friends within their network. Don't be afraid to reach out through schemes such as the Age UK volunteer telephone friendship service
You can also reach out to us if you feel your loved one might benefit from befriending services and we'll be happy to offer a consultation with you for free to discuss your needs and whether we might be the right service for you. Contact us at email@example.com