For all humans, social contacts are important and perhaps even of vital essence. The people around do not only give us a sense of purpose, but they are also important for us in order to stay healthy both mentally and physically. When people become lonely, they lose a sense of connection to their surroundings and this can be very damaging to their well-being. Although this is a problem that affects all age groups to some extent, the age group where these issues are most prevalent is that of the elderly. It is important that we stay in touch with these people who have often seen everyone leave them, usually in unavoidable ways.
How big is the problem of loneliness in the elderly?
In England alone, over 2 million people over the age of 75 live alone according to Age UK. Though admittedly this isn’t necessarily the number of people who would consider themselves lonely or who would generally be considered lonely, the following group most definitely is: over a million older people state that they sometimes go for over a month without speaking to anyone, not a friend, or family member and not even a neighbour. This is a very serious problem which causes many people to be completely left out of society.
What causes the problem of loneliness in the elderly?
The cause of these issues is fairly straightforward in the case of the elderly. People tend to build up a group of people around them when they are young, say in their 20s or 30s. They get into a relationship, get married and have children. They often have a lot of contact with people in their area through their family activities and socially through other activities. However, when they get older and the children leave and relocate to other cities. They see the friends they have disappearing one by one as their ages become higher and, most importantly of a married couple, one person will always stay behind alone when the partner has passed away. In this way, it is easy to feel left out of touch with the rest of society, alone and vulnerable. For people who are lonely, it can be rather hard to reach out. They might simply not know who to go to, or they might feel too proud to ask for help, since in our culture asking for help is usually associated with being weak, which is of course a rather bad stigma.
Addressing the issue of loneliness in the elderly
A very important part of solving these problems is to talk about them. Only people can solve this and therefore it is important that as many people as possible realise that this is a problem in the first place. This could motivate someone to suddenly think of that one aunt who they haven’t spoken to in years, who doesn’t have any children. It is through such means that lonely people can be found and helped, so they will feel part of society again. Or perhaps you haven’t seen your 80-year-old neighbour in a while, then go check on her and invite her for a cup of tea or something of the sort.
Further solutions for loneliness
It is, however, also important that elderly people attempt to improve their situation themselves in all ways possible to them. When one finds themself single, it might be good to consider over 60 dating in order to find a new special someone. 60dating.com for example or any other dating site for seniors could be used in order to do this, or joining clubs and organisations with a lot of similarly aged people involved. Taking part in society in any way possible can lead to making new contacts and new friendships, which makes the chance of experiencing loneliness increasingly lower. However, this is not possible for everyone because some people may be too weak to take part in activities, maybe because of their high age, limited mobility or illnesses that might have come with age.
Loneliness does not just affect the elderly
And let us not forget that loneliness can affect people of all ages, not just older people. Especially with the covid crisis, there was a very high amount of young people who were experiencing loneliness due to the lack of social contact during this period. But also outside of this, it is important to note the tendency of our world to become more atomized. More and more things simply become digital, taking away the need for many human interactions and decreasing the chance of meeting other people and potentially increasing the amount of loneliness in our world. So look out for one another and try to help those who seem vulnerable, be it a family member, a friend or your neighbour.