Reducing loneliness in the elderly
“Let us never know what old age is. Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years.” — Ausonius, poet
When thinking about ideas aimed at reducing loneliness in the elderly, it’s vital to remember that older people often have much to offer the community and world at large.
Loneliness and social isolation do not have to go hand in hand with being older and wiser, and some of the types of interventions in place to reduce loneliness in older people can also offer social support, mental health and wellbeing benefits to other people of all ages. Indeed, interventions to reduce loneliness can have long term impacts on public health.
It’s good to talk to tackle loneliness
“Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” — Satchel Paige
Older people have stories to tell. They’ve lived through significant world events and have the perspective and wisdom that this brings.
Thanks to technological advancements, and even in this COVID 19 era, older people can now share their stories and wisdom with their friends and family over social media – ‘Zooming’ with younger relatives, reading them stories, telling them about historical events: it’s a win-win situation.
Sharing stories and strengthening bonds with family can give older people a sense of higher purpose and value and this has an effect on health. It also helps children and grandchildren feel rooted in their family and place in the world.
Listen to your elders
“Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art.” —Stanislaw Jerzy Lec
Older people have a valuable role in educating family members (and others) about life in general.
Professor Dr. Karl Pillemer of Cornell University has compiled advice from more than 1,500 older American interviewees into two books, “30 Lessons for Living” & “30 Lessons for Loving“.
These books of wisdom centre on the importance of taking time to craft the story of your life. According to the older people he interviewed, as you age what matters the most is how your life has played out. It’s not necessarily about traditional accomplishments but it’s vital that older people know that their lives have mattered somehow.
Reminiscing, writing their own memoirs and talking about their personal values – as well as passing on their reflections on life, love and work – is really rewarding for older people. Pillemer says, “It’s important for older people to record their own thoughts and memories, but it’s really critical for younger people to ask them for them, and not just for stories, but for guidance and practical advice for living.“.
Our elders play a valuable role in how society functions and listening to their stories can help us understand the past and shape the future.
“One of the nice things about getting older is that you come to understand that you can integrate multiple aspects of your life together. When you’re young, you think everything has to be binary, as that’s exactly how you feel at that age.” – Min Jin Lee
Do you feel lonely? Support is available
There is lots of support available for older people who may not have family, friends or others with whom they can easily connect. This support is all free of charge.
The Silver Line Helpline (0800 4 70 80 90)
The Silver Line Helpline is a national, free and confidential phone line dedicated to older people who feel lonely. Callers get information, friendship and advice – or just someone to chat to.
Silver Line also offer volunteer-led telephone and letter-writing services which are free. These are called Telephone Friendship and Silver Letters.
Telephone Friendship offers a regularly timed weekly 30-minute call with a volunteer who shares your interests, while Silver Letters means you and your Silver Line volunteer friend write a couple of letters to each other a month. These often include exchanges of poetry and photos.
You can be a member of both Silver Letters and Telephone Friendship and can find more information here about both options:
Silver Line (motto: “No question too big, no problem too small, no need to be alone.”) was founded by Dame Esther Ranzen following the experience she had when widowed aged 71. People who’ve used the service have said: “When I get off the phone, I feel like I belong to the human race.” And a lady said that, thanks to the regular calls she receives from her Silver Line Friend, she no longer feels “shuffled under the carpet.” Though it’s no less than a tragedy that valuable people should feel this way, we are grateful to Silver Line and others for the work they do in this field.
This has been my third Christmas “home alone” but this time it was different because of you. I have rheumatoid arthritis, so I am more or less confined to barracks. Sometimes I just feel like having a chat and there’s no one at that time I can phone. Now I’ve got The Silver Line. I feel I’ve got a whole lot of new friends and have had some lovely conversations. Where did you find such lovely people?” – Vera
Age UK runs a telephone befriending service called Call in Time which allows you to sign up for a free weekly friendship call. You can find out more here.
Face to Face befriending
In Covid 19 and non-COVID 19 times, we offer a Companionship Service for as many times or days that clients would like. Our staff will happily visit someone at home for a cuppa and a chat, or perhaps go for a walk or engage in a favourite hobby. You can find out more about Age UK’s befriending service here.
Friendship groups or centres are a great way to build new relationships and rebuild your social confidence. You can find your local group here. We would be delighted to support you with any transport to take you to attend a local group meeting/get-together.
If you have a hobby or leisure activity you used love, chances are that your local Age UK has a club to suit you. You can discover more about that here.
“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.” — Madeleine L’Engle, American writer.
We must all feel encouraged to speak to older age people in our lives and communities, to relate to them as people with a valuable past, offer companionship and support them when we can.
But rather than thinking of older people as people who may need our help, it’s wise to also think about what older people give us. This is not a one-way street. On the contrary, the sage advice and long-term view that older people have can be a welcome antidote to the react first, think later lives we are now living.
COVID-19 has bought communities closer together, even as we’ve had to be physically distant. At a time when even people with families and friends are finding it hard to see them and have a meaningful time together, we are pleased that there are several options available to reduce loneliness among older people and boost the wellbeing of every generation.
It’s good to talk. Here at Great Park Homecare we’re at the end of the phone when you need us.
“As I started getting older, I realized, “I’m so happy”! I didn’t expect this! I wasn’t happy when I was young.” – Jane Fonda
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