What is loneliness?
Loneliness is not just being alone. You can feel lonely even when you are surrounded by people. Loneliness means feeling isolated. It leaves you feeling sad or afraid. You may feel lonely because you are:
- spending too much time alone
- grieving over a loss, such as the death of a spouse
- feeling misunderstood, unloved, or useless.
Loneliness is a problem for many older adults whose lives previously centered on the job they used to have or on family members who are no longer around.
Does loneliness affect my health?
Loneliness causes a lot of the anxiety and depression that is seen in older adults. Lonely people don’t always eat properly or get enough exercise. It may not seem worth the effort to shop and prepare food for one person to eat alone. Walking or exercising alone may not seem to be much fun either. Poor nutrition and lack of exercise can result in a lack of energy and stamina and contribute to health problems that affect older adults.
What can I do to feel less lonely?
Talking to others your own age may help you feel like there are others who understand you. Children and grandchildren are great, but if you have been feeling lonely in spite of their attention, look for support from your own age group. Close friends, brothers, and sisters are often supports throughout our lives. We all like to chat about the “old days.” Getting in touch with people from the past can help. You may be able to get information from family reunions, school reunions, the VFW, and other sources.
If you like company at mealtimes, call your local senior center and find out when meals are served. If you would like to walk with a group for exercise or join an exercise class, ask about that. If you like to dance, do crafts, or play cards, ask about activities. Be sure to ask about transportation if you need it.
Maybe you miss doing things for other people. If so, ask your local hospital, library, church, or senior center about volunteer opportunities.
Loneliness can happen when you feel unloved. If you feel like you are not getting the attention you need from others, it’s important to let them know. Be specific in telling them what would help you feel better. Let them know if you would like to see them more often. Usually making plans for a certain date and time will bring better results than being vague.
Owning a pet can help prevent loneliness and provide companionship. Older adults who own a pet usually have better physical health.
What can I do if I’m lonely because I live alone now?
Living alone can be hard to adjust to if you have always had family around you. It may be that the time has come to move out of a house that has become too big and empty. If so, there are lots of senior communities that offer the privacy of your own apartment while providing dining facilities, group activities, and a built-in social life that you can join as much or as little as you wish. If you think this might suit you, take your time and look at different places before making up your mind because different things — such as a view, large rooms, or being near shops — are important to different people.
Loneliness can be the start of a new life
It’s hard to think of good coming out of loneliness, but sometimes loneliness can force change for the better. Moving to a senior community can give you a family all over again. Volunteering and helping others can give new purpose and meaning to your life. Joining in senior activities can be the start of new and lasting friendships. These things can happen and you can make them happen.