Benefits of social interaction

Having a network of good relationships improves our wellbeing and can keep our minds active. Staying connected with others and taking part in social activities can increase your confidence and improve your self-esteem.

As you get older, certain changes can make it harder for you to stay socially active. For example:

  • retirement may have reduced the number of people you see on a daily basis
  • adult children may have moved away
  • health difficulties or a lack of money may make it harder to get out.

It’s normal to find yourself alone at some points and being alone doesn’t always mean you’ll feel lonely. But not getting the quality or quantity of social contact you want can lead to feelings of loneliness, which can affect your physical and mental health. For more information on loneliness, see our webpage Coping with loneliness.

Whether you want to stay in touch with old friends, make new friends and acquaintances, or be engaged with social activities, a few simple steps can help you to get the social contact you would like.

During the coronavirus pandemic, you may not be able to go out and socialise the way you’re used to. Our webpage Staying connected and well when you’re staying at home has tips on how to stay in touch with others during this time, as well as support you can get.

Ways to stay in touch

While meeting people face-to-face is important, it might not always be easy or convenient to meet up as often as you’d like. Technology can help you stay in regular contact with friends and family, as well as giving you the opportunity to connect with others.

Phone and video calls are a great way to stay in touch, especially if your friends or family live far away. You could schedule a call at a regular time every week – like putting a plan in the diary, this can give you something to look forward to. If it’s hard to arrange a time to call people, consider other ways of communicating. You could send letters, emails or text messages instead. You could also consider joining social media sites, so you can keep up to date and connected with everyone close to you.

If you don’t have someone close to keep in touch with, there are plenty of charities that offer friendly, regular chats. For example, we provide a phone call service for people to regularly talk to one of our trained volunteers. Re-engage has a call companions service for older people who live alone and would like a friendly phone call every week or so.

As well as helping you to keep connected with friends and family, the internet can be a great way to meet new friends or get back in touch with old ones. If you’ve fallen out of touch with friends, social networking sites like Facebook can be useful for reconnecting. Online forums can be a good way to find people with similar interests and chat with people across the UK and the world. For example, Gransnet (not just for grans) is an online social forum for anyone over 50.

Social groups and activities

Joining a social group or taking part in an activity can help you to meet new people and make friends. As well as the opportunity to socialise, it’s a great way to continue with your hobbies, learn skills and pick up new interests.

Don’t feel you have to do things that are just for older people – there are many possibilities. Do something you know you enjoy or try something new. You could:

  • join social groups, such as Men's Sheds or the Women's Institute, which offer spaces in your local community to enjoy activities and meet other people
  • take part in exercise classes with Extend, which provides seated and standing exercise classes for all fitness levels. You could join walking groups, such as the Ramblers or Walking for Health, or take part in other physical activities such as swimming
  • do something you enjoy – for example, you can search for amateur music groups at Making Music or find a local bridge club at the English Bridge Union
  • learn something new at adult education classes or the University of the Third Age
  • attend an event at Re-engage, which hosts monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for older people in local communities 
  • volunteer, to meet others while sharing your experience and doing something valuable. Many charities, including Independent Age, need volunteers, or you could contact Volunteering Matters or NCVO. You could combine your hobby with volunteering – for example, you could knit for a variety of charities!

It’s a good idea to plan ahead – putting things in the diary or calendar can give yourself a structure and something to look forward to. Our factsheet How to stay socially connected has more suggestions.

During the coronavirus pandemic, many organisations are now hosting their events and activities online or on the phone. If you used to attend a group or class or would like to start, you should get in touch with the organiser to see what they’re doing during this time.

You can still enjoy many activities, such as online exercise classes, educational talks and virtual meetups with interest groups. For example, Royal Voluntary Service has a Virtual Village Hall where you can take part in online sessions about arts and crafts, cooking, gardening and more.

Other practical steps

There are lots of small, practical steps that can help you stay connected. Try some of the following suggestions.

  • For many people, keeping in touch by phone is a good way to overcome loneliness and get regular social contact with others. Make sure you’re on the best tariff or call package.
  • Reach out to other people. You are probably not the only one who feels lonely. If you enjoy doing something like going to the cinema or taking part in an online class, try taking the first step and inviting someone to do it with you.
  • Going out can be expensive. If you’re over 60, you may be entitled to discounts at cinemas, theatres, museums and more, so don’t forget to ask. Also make sure you are claiming all the benefits you are entitled to. Call our Helpline on 0800 319 6789 for a free benefits check.

Remember to look after yourself. Eating well, staying active and getting a good night’s sleep can help you relax, feel better and feel more like socialising with others.

Next steps

If you’d like regular social contact from someone, you could think about receiving regular phone calls or visits from one of our trained volunteers. Call us on 0800 319 6789 to learn more.

Our factsheet How to stay socially connected has more information on where you can find opportunities to meet people and get involved in activities.

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