Chronic loneliness is not only horrible to experience day in, day out, it can also have a devastating impact on an older person’s mental and physical health. Studies show that about 10% of those over the age of 65 who live alone experience chronic loneliness.
Living in isolation and loneliness is a stark reality for many older people all year round, however it is highlighted during the festive season. The great thing about this time of year is that it gives us all a chance to make new connections. So what can you do to help?
Get to know your neighbours, and that doesn’t have to be the people right beside you, it might be someone a few doors down or across the street. Get a handle for who’s living around you, and if you don’t see people dropping in, then Christmas is a great time to knock on their door and say, ‘What are you doing for Christmas’, ‘Do you need any help with anything?'”.
Extend these practices out to your wider community. Having a friendly chat with an older person on the bus or in a shop, or offering to help an elderly neighbour with their shopping if the weather is bad, can do more good than most of us would ever guess, and at very little cost to ourselves. In fact you’ll feel better too as a result.
By encouraging everyone to do more in their communities, we can break down the perceived barriers between old and young, help people stay active and remain a part of their community for as long as possible. We can also work to prevent loneliness from becoming so debilitating that it has a longer term, and more costly impact on health.
Just because the festive season highlights the fact that many older people may lonely it does not mean you should stop these practices when the season ends. Try to make this extend throughout the year. You never know, you might change someones life and make a new friend in the process!