Loneliness can affect anyone of any age, but older people are especially vulnerable. According to AgeUK, more than 2 million people over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. How sad is that?
Many people of any age feel lonely for short periods, however for some in later life loneliness and social isolation has a huge impact on their wellbeing. Some will find it difficult to reach out for help because of pride, or a possible stigma surrounding loneliness. Their loneliness may be due to the death of a spouse, partner or friend, or as a consequence of disability and illness. Others feel lonely through lack of strong social relationships, or unhappiness with the ones they have. Some people feel lonely, old, weak and useless, having retired from their workplace, whilst others, no longer the hub of their family, feel unimportant.
Having been widowed or divorced those living alone may lose their social networks, contacts with friends, and have limited opportunities to participate in social occasions. Poor health makes matters worse, as can age, ethnicity, retirement and lack of funds, plus bad local transport, and neighbourhood characteristics sometimes making it worse.
Loneliness is associated with both physical and mental health problems, such as sleep difficulties, hypertension, impaired cognitive health, vascular problems and psychological stress. Anyone of any age may experience short or intermittent spells of loneliness, but unfortunately in older age it has the potential to permanently limit enjoyment and quality of life. Many of us have experienced a feeling of being alone when we don’t have the sort of social connections we’d like, or that feel right for us. It’s not about having crowds of people around, but rather just one or a number of social contacts, of quality and of personal interest to us. We’re all different with differing needs and social networks, important to think about if we are to avoid loneliness.
When out and about simply smiling more can help, especially if followed by polite conversation. Why not invite others to pop in for tea and a chat, especially an older person who you know is also lonely? Maybe make that overdue phone call to a friend or relative. But, if you’ve no-one to speak to, call AgeUK on 0800 055 6112, who can arrange for someone to call you regularly for a chat.
Enquire about volunteering in your local charity shop, or use your working knowledge and experience to give something back to the community. Learn to love computers at local branches of AgeUK, your local library or community centre, great places to meet other like-minded people. If over 60 get a Senior Railcard and Bus Pass it’s so easy to use. Go out and about, don’t wait for people to come to you and – don’t forget to enjoy the view!
It’s important to maintain your fitness
Ex 1 To mobilise and stretch out the sides of your body stand with feet apart and knees relaxed. With right arm reach up and over your head, bending left knee and placing left hand on your hip. Bring right arm down, transfer your weight onto your right leg, and reach up and over with left hand (as if you’re climbing up a rope), placing right hand on your hip. Repeat 10 times to alternate sides.
EX 2 To mobilise your upper body stand with feet apart, lift arms up to shoulder level, bend elbows and bring fingertips together in front of your chest. Keep hips facing forward, and twist just your upper body and head around to right side. Come back to face centre, then twist your upper body around and look to the left. Repeat 10 times.
Ex 3 To keep your legs strong and to strengthen front thigh muscle stand in front of a sturdy chair with feet hip width apart. Keep your weight on your heels, pull in your tum, Place hands on thighs and simply bend upper body forward and lower your bottom down toward the seat. But pause, don’t sit but keeping tummy tight, stand up straight again. Repeat 10 times.
4 To give you core strength and good shape lie on your back, knees bent with feet hip width apart. To prevent back problems tuck your toes under bed or sofa. Pull in tummy muscles tilting your pelvis up (pelvic tilt) and push waist flat down into the floor. Hold this position throughout the exercise. Place hands on thighs; breathe out as you lift your head and shoulders up off floor to a count of 2. Now breathe in and relax back down to a count of 2. Repeat 10 times.