- Research shows that more than 1/3 of adults over the age of 45 are lonely; the majority report feeling physically isolated and/or having small social networks.
- Loneliness can lead to physical and mental health issues; therefore, it is important to resolve these feelings and prevent social isolation by staying connected with others.
- You can stay connected with others by opening yourself to relationships with people of all ages; befriending younger individuals, for example, can inspire those in older age.
- It’ll also help to find a hobby you thoroughly enjoy that’ll introduce you to like-minded people; find a friend that keeps you accountable on this journey.
- Additionally, consider getting a companion pet, as this has proven to remedy loneliness and even help people to socialize with others.
- Finally, prioritize time with old friends—schedule phone calls often and get-togethers when possible.
A recent report from the AARP Foundation found that more than 1/3 of adults over the age of 45 are lonely. The majority of these individuals reported being physically isolated or having small social networks. These findings are alarming, as loneliness and social isolation are associated with various health issues, including heart problems, depression, substance abuse, and more. The good news, however, is that we can counter the negative effects of loneliness by putting a plan in place for resolving or preventing lonely feelings.
The report on loneliness in older adults also found that those with large social groups and regular contact with friends and family were less likely to feel lonely. With this in mind, here are a few strategies for staying connected with others and in turn taking better care of your physical and mental health:
1. Make multi-generational friends.
First, don’t limit yourself to friends of the same age. Making multi-generational friends can benefit you, as explained by Christina Somerville, the author of ConvoConnection, a blog that helps people build social confidence: “When people get older, they become rather nostalgic. They may look back on their lives, reflect on their experiences, and long to share all their accumulated wisdom. Young people, conversely, have a vitality and ambition that older people appreciate, admire, and quite frankly sometimes need. There is much to be gained when different generations mix, coming together with the intention to mutually learn and share with one another. This can be the basis for a remarkable and nurturing friendship.”
2. Get into a fulfilling hobby.
Also, find a hobby you enjoy—one that’ll introduce you to like-minded individuals. Adina Mahalli, Master Social Worker, explains this tip: “Much of the loneliness of old age stems from the boredom of feeling like you’re just moving aimlessly from day to day. Make the most of your newfound free-time to take up a new hobby. Whether it’s playing an instrument, needlepoint, or gardening, choose something that you’re interested in and find a local class. This is a fun and easy way to meet new people who you already know you have at least one thing in common with!”
3. Find an accountability partner.
Find a companion who can keep you accountable for your new hobby or goal, perhaps. This friendship will prove mutually beneficial. “If you have a project, goal, or secret dream you wish to pursue (e.g., a physical challenge, a new interest/skill, starting a business, etc.) try to find a buddy to join you on your journey,” says Somerville. “Plan for regular check-ins weekly. You’ll enjoy learning together and appreciate the mutual support. It’s also nice to have someone to turn to when tough challenges arise. Equally, it’s rewarding to have someone help celebrate your wins. Keep an eye out for potential partners and if you think there’s an opportunity, just ask. Most would greatly appreciate it.”
4. Find a companion in a pet.
You can also remedy lonely feelings by embarking on a new chapter of life with a companion pet. “A great way to reduce the loneliness that comes with old age can come in the form of a new pet,” Mahalli explains. “Pets provide you with unconditional, non-judgmental love as well as a renewed sense of responsibility that you have something wake up to and care for every day.”
5. Schedule time with old friends.
And simply, plan and prioritize time with old friends. Don’t let the business of today get in the way of these important relationships. “Proactively schedule outreaches to old friends. Put them on your calendar. Stagger each outreach so you’re calling or contacting another friend every few days or every week. Then continue to cycle through your friends list,” Somerville suggests. “You’ll appreciate the constant contact with a mixed group of people that matter in your life. Plus, by doing this, you’ll make sure too much time doesn’t go by without some contact, so your relationships stay fresh and rewarding. And in time, the calls will probably be reciprocated.”