Loneliness is on the rise: 7 tips to combat this in later life
“Social isolation and loneliness are widespread, with some countries reporting that up to one in three older people feel lonely. A large body of research shows that social isolation and loneliness have a serious impact on older people’s physical and mental health, quality of life, and their longevity. The effect of social isolation and loneliness on mortality is comparable to that of other well-established risk factors such as smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.”
– World Health Organization
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Hard lockdown measures and forced social distancing have resulted in increased feelings of loneliness, particularly among the elderly. This has compounded a sense of isolation that is common as people leave the workplace, are no longer the family hub, and suffer ill health and the death of loved ones. However, there are ways to combat these feelings of loneliness as one enters the golden years.
“Retirement years are about taking the time to enjoy one’s hobbies and interests without worrying about the responsibility of work and demands of a young family,”
said Phil Barker of Renishaw Property Developments.
“For many, the arrival of Covid-19 interrupted these plans, with many still unsure about travelling while the threat remains. This can result in loneliness, especially for individuals who live by themselves, which negatively impacts overall health. There are many ways, though, to proactively engage with the local community to combat this loneliness and keep happy in retirement.”
1. Engage in physical activity
No matter what stage of live you’re in, keeping active is an important way to improve physical and mental wellbeing. As people get older, remaining physically active is even more imperative as it assists in maintaining independence well enhancing overall health. But more than that, physical activity is a great way to get out and connect with others – whether it’s through walking clubs, yoga or even dance classes. This shared time is a way to get out of the house, meet new people, and improve one’s health all at the same time.
2. Join clubs and community initiatives
Where life might have focused on child-related clubs and after-school activities, the retirement years are an opportunity to indulge in one’s own interests and hobbies. Whether it’s weekly bridge or poker games, local quizzes or sundowner get-togethers, there are always club-based activities happening in the area, it’s just a matter of taking the time to get involved and find one that fits.
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3. Share workplace skills
There wonders of technology and digital connectivity via WiFi means that retirement does not necessarily mean a complete halt to all work activities. Remote and part-time work opportunities exist, with retirees taking advantage of the online space to remain active, albeit not at the same fast pace. For those who don’t necessarily need the financial benefits that remote working provides, these same skills can be shared with the youth, many of whom are desperate for upskilling as a way to secure future employment. By sharing these valuable workplace skills, retirees are remaining engaged and connected with the world.
4. Try something new
The truth is, you can teach an old dog new tricks! That’s why so many retirees are using this time wisely to discover new skills and interests. There are so many local courses being held that instruct on everything from woodworking to painting, but for those who aren’t interested in hands-on skills, tertiary institutions offer short courses, providing an opportunity to learn about economics, politics or ancient Greece. Getting out and exploring nearby sites, monuments, museums and natural spaces is also a great way to connect with others and prevent those feelings of isolation.
5. Help others
Research by the US National Library of Medicine found that ‘additional participation in voluntary services … resulted in an 8.54% increase in mental health, 9.08% in physical health, 7.35% in life satisfaction, and 11.11% in social well-being, as well as 4.30% decrease in depression, giving evidence that higher participation in voluntary services pertinent to other-oriented volunteering contributes to better health benefits cumulatively.’ Not only do retirees benefit health-wise from volunteering in community initiatives, it’s a fantastic way to connect with people who are making a positive impact on the world around them.
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