One key to overcoming loneliness is to think about ways you can start feeling more connected to others. Consider what type of social contact makes you happy and fulfilled. After all, it’s the quality of your time with other people that’s most important.
For some ideas on how not to be lonely, check out these tips:
Increase Social Interactions
Becoming more social might sound difficult at first. But if you’re retired, you may have more free time than you used to. And many opportunities are available that can improve your social well-being.
For example, if you live near a seniors’ center, check out what it offers. And think about the activities you enjoy (or have enjoyed in the past). Look for events in your community that are related to those activities. Whether you like doing crafts, exploring spiritual issues, or playing games, your hobbies and interests can help you meet like-minded people.
Of course, you also want to have social contact that is friendly and meaningful. As a senior, you may have lots of life experience to draw upon but making new friends can still be challenging at any age.
If you’re able to, doing volunteer work is a great way to increase your social connections. A study published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B found that just two hours a week of volunteering significantly reduced symptoms of loneliness in widowed seniors. Some older adults enjoy volunteering by helping other seniors who have less independence than they do.
Connect with Technology
This may seem like a strange tip. After all, using technology has been linked to loneliness in teenagers. But for many seniors, technology use can actually help with loneliness when used wisely.
Technology can help by providing a great way to stay in touch or even meet new people. For example, you can text or email friends or relatives. There are several inexpensive or free online resources where seniors can learn new technology skills.
If you prefer to see someone’s face when talking with him or her, consider having Zoom, Skype or FaceTime conversation.
Have Fun with Exercise
Exercise can improve both loneliness and depression, which in turn can improve the quality of your social interactions. Plus, many forms of physical activity have the bonus of giving you opportunities to meet new people. So, check out some ideas for getting exercise as a senior. Some forms of exercise can even help alleviate arthritis pain and stiffness.
Consider a Pet
Having an animal companion can be a great way to feel less lonely. In fact, pet owners are 36 percent less likely to report feelings of loneliness. Of course, living with a pet isn’t a practical option for all seniors. If you’re not sure whether owning a pet will work for you, look into fostering. When you foster an animal, you look after it until the pet finds a permanent home. Fostering can help you decide whether your lifestyle, health, and living conditions can handle a pet. Look into pet visiting services for seniors in your area. Pet visits allow you to experience the therapeutic benefits of animals without the responsibility of pet ownership.
Check Your Hearing
Hearing problems can lead to increased loneliness. Sometimes, seniors are reluctant to talk about hearing problems with their doctors or other caregivers. But don’t hesitate to bring up concerns about your hearing. In a quiet doctor’s office, a physician might not notice that you’re having issues unless you tell him or her. Plus, many doctors overlook the possible connections between hearing loss and loneliness and depression unless they’re reminded about them.
Have Reliable Transportation
Not having reliable transportation contributes to loneliness, since many seniors experience big changes in their activity levels once they stop driving. Your local Area Agency on Aging can help you (or someone close to you) investigate alternative transportation options.
If you’re feeling depressed or overwhelmed by loneliness, help is available. For example, the Institute on Aging offers a toll-free 24-hour Friendship Line you can call for support. The organization’s volunteers also do outgoing calls to check in on adults who have requested someone to monitor their well-being. The Friendship Line can be reached at 800-971-0016.