Benefits of staying connected
Having a network of good relationships improves your wellbeing and can keep your mind active. Staying connected with others and taking part in social activities can also increase your confidence and improve how you feel about yourself.
As you get older, certain changes can make it harder for you to stay socially active. For example:
- you may see fewer people day to day if you've retired
- your children may have moved away
- health difficulties or a lack of money may make it harder to get out
- you may have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and may not feel comfortable going out and socialising like you used to.
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 amount of social contact you want can lead to feelings of loneliness. This 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, or take part in social activities, a few simple steps can help you to get the social contact you would like.
Ways to stay in touch
While meeting people face-to-face is important, it might not always be easy 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 new people.
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 so that you have something to look forward to. If it’s hard to arrange a time to call people, you could send letters, emails or text messages instead. You could also consider joining social media sites, so you can stay 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, Re-engage has a call companions service for older people who live alone and would like a friendly phone call every week or so, and Age UK offers in-person and telephone befriending schemes.
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. Charities like Royal Voluntary Service also hold activities that you can join online - for example, they offer a Virtual Village Hall where you can join in online sessions about arts and crafts, cooking, gardening and more.
Our Staying connected online webpage has more information about how to keep in touch with friends and family.
Social groups and activities
Joining a social group or taking part in an activity can help you to meet new people and make friends. It's also a great way to continue with your hobbies, learn skills and pick up new interests.
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 (in Scotland, the Scottish Women's Institutes), which offer spaces in your local community to enjoy activities and meet other people
- get involved in social activities offered by the Royal Voluntary Service and Age UK
- take part in walking groups, such as Ramblers Wellbeing Walks, or 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, Scottish Bridge Union or Welsh 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 (WCVA in Wales or SCVO in Scotland). 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 and putting things in the diary or calendar can give you something to look forward to. Our guide If you're feeling lonely has more suggestions.
Regular company at home
If you're living alone and you'd like to have regular company at home, you could consider being part of a homeshare scheme. These schemes, which are currently in England and Wales, work by matching an older person with a spare room with someone looking for more affordable housing who is happy to keep you company.
There are many benefits of living in a homeshare. It can:
- help you stay in your own home for longer
- give you someone who can talk to you and lend a helping hand around the house, if needed
- give your family and friends peace of mind if they're worried about you living alone.
For more information about homeshares, visit Homeshare UK.
Watch the video below to hear Cecil's story about his experience with homesharing:
(Video credit: Homeshare UK)
Other things to try
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 qualify for 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.
Our guide If you're feeling lonely has more information on where you can find opportunities to meet people and get involved in activities.