According to Age UK, more than one million people over the age of 75 say they regularly go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. Older people can face barriers to connection less common amongst their younger counterparts including mobility problems or age-related illnesses, and issues connected to identity such as becoming a partner’s full-time carer, retirement, widowhood, or ‘empty nest’ syndrome. This article offers some helpful guidance to help combat isolation and loneliness.
Telephone befriending services for older people
You might be the child of an older person and living too far away to visit regularly, or you may know an older person who could benefit from someone to chat to on a regular basis. There are a number of free-to-use services that can alleviate loneliness and improve overall wellbeing.
- Age UK runs a telephone befriending service, Call in Time, which allows older people to register for a free weekly friendship call by a trained volunteer.
- Silverline also offers older people befriending calls and the service is free to use.
- Many local Age UKs offer face-to-face befriending services. These often involve a volunteer visiting someone at home for a cup of tea and a chat but might also include a volunteer accompanying the older person to the occasional doctor’s or hospital appointment.
- Contact the Elderly is a charity that holds free Sunday afternoon tea parties for people over the age of 75 who live alone.
Get and stay connected
If your loved one lives too far away to regularly visit, you might consider helping them to learn how to use the internet. Whether it’s email or a videoconference programme such as Zoom or Skype, it’s a great way for someone to stay connected without the outside world.
Local branches of Age UK run classes in computing to help older people get to grips with smartphones, tablets, computers and email. Although using technology for the first time can feel daunting, with the right guidance, people can become more confident using the internet.
We can feel at our most alone when we don’t feel that we have anything to look forward to, so planning ahead can go a long way to improving overall wellbeing. Even a once a week standing engagement such as a befriending call, or the weekly shop can structure the time and offer something to plan for. Independent Age has published a guide about what can help older people who feel lonely, including activities to try.