Being alone doesn’t always mean you’ll feel lonely, but a lack of social contact can lead to feelings of loneliness. Loneliness can decrease your confidence and affect your self-esteem, but there are some simple things you can do to make a difference to how you feel. For more information on loneliness, see Coping with loneliness.
Anyone can struggle with loneliness or a lack of social contact, but as you get older certain changes could make you more vulnerable to these problems. 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 have made it harder to get out.
Whether you want to stay in touch with old friends, make new friends and acquaintances, or find different types of relationships, a few simple steps can help you to get the social contact you would like.
Social groups and activities
Joining a social group or taking part in an activity can help you to meet new people and make friends. 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
- exercise with Extend or take part in other physical activities, such as swimming, or walking with The Ramblers Association or Walking for Health
- do something you enjoy – for example, Making Music lists amateur music groups and the English Bridge Union can help you find a local bridge club
- learn something new at adult education classes or the University of the Third Age (U3A)
- 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.
Plan ahead – put things in the diary or calendar to give yourself a structure and something to look forward to. Our factsheet How to stay socially connected has more suggestions.
Ways to stay in touch
Phone calls are a great way to stay in touch, but if it’s hard to arrange a time to call people, consider other ways of communicating. You could send a letter, email or text message instead.
Make sure you’re getting the type of contact you need. If you’d rather meet people face to face, try to arrange that instead. For example, you could sign up for Contact the Elderly’s monthly Sunday tea parties for people aged 75 or over.
Computers offer a lot of ways to stay connected, from contacting family to hearing about local events. If you want to learn to use a computer, see if your local library, your council or a local Age UK runs a course near you. 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, and online forums can be a good way to find people with similar interests. For example, Gransnet (not just for grans) is an online social forum for over-50s.
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. Make sure you’re on the best tariff or call package.
- Reach out to other people. You might not be the only one who feels lonely. If you enjoy doing something like going to the cinema or for a meal, try inviting someone to go 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 us for a benefits check on 0800 319 6789.
Look after yourself. Eating well and taking exercise can help you relax and feel better.
Having someone to catch up with regularly for a chat can make a big difference to someone who feels lonely. Find out about the range of volunteer opportunities at Independent Age.