Loneliness is often a much talked about topic at this time of year. While it’s true that exclusion from festive celebrations can amplify these feelings of isolation, for many people, it also extends into the New Year and beyond - when there might be fewer opportunities to get together with friends, family or neighbours.
People can be lonely at any age, and these feelings may be caused by a variety of reasons, such as:
- experiencing the loss of a friend or family member
- irregular contact with other people who share the same interests
- the breakdown of a marriage or relationship
- becoming retired and missing the routine and contact of working life
- living alone
With more than nine million people in Britain often feeling lonely, it is no surprise that 1 in 10 people often go a month without seeing family, friends or neighbours. However, loneliness is not the same as being alone; a person may be surrounded by other people, but still feel isolated from the world around them.
Whatever the cause, it's understandable why people may be left feeling alone. Without intervention this could lead to depression, and a decline in their physical health and wellbeing.
If you know someone who could be feeling lonely, these 5 points may help them to rebuild connections.
1.Invite friends or family for tea
When people feel down and alone, they can often feel as though no-one would want to visit them, but often friends, family and neighbours will appreciate an invitation to come and spend some time with them. Contact the Elderly is a charity that holds free Sunday afternoon tea parties for people over the age of 75 who live alone. They will drive participants to a volunteer host's home for the afternoon, and drop them home again afterwards. Apply online or call 0800 716 543.
2.Get involved in local community activities
These will vary from region to region, but can include singing and walking groups, book clubs, exercise classes and choirs. Many national organisations often hold regular social events, such as the Women's Institute, Rotary and Contact the Elderly.
3.Fill your diary
One way to feel less lonely is to make arrangements for the weeks and months in advance – leisure activities like a walk in the park, visiting the library, cinema or museum, or going to a coffee shop can provide people with something to look forward to, especially if it brings the opportunity to catch up with loved ones.
Many people use their knowledge and experience by volunteering in the local community and teaching others skills like cooking, painting, floristry or craftwork. The benefits can be highly rewarding, such as gaining new skills, confidence and hopefully, new friends too. Try:
5.Keep in touch by phone
Having a chat with friends or relatives over the phone can be the next best thing to being with them. It can be equally fulfilling to share conversations with like-minded people who enjoy the same activities and hobbies, and many advice lines offer facilitating services for volunteers to chat with older people:
Of course, the best gift to give someone who is lonely is to spend time with them over the holidays – and throughout the rest of the year.