Dealing with Loneliness in Retirement

Dealing with loneliness is now on the political agenda as new research has shown it increases the risk of ill-health and early death.

There has been various reports in the press recently about dealing with loneliness.  Research carried out by the relationship support organization Relate revealed that nearly one in 10 people said they do not have a single close friend and almost one in five rarely or never feeling loved in the two weeks before the survey.

Age Uk also carried out a  poll of 2,000 over-65s which found 10% described themselves as often or always lonely - a rise from 7% a year ago.

Research has shown that loneliness can increase the risk of ill-health and early death. Living alone is linked to habits that are bad for health. For example, eating poorly and having less motivation to be physically active can be a consequence of being physically isolated.

Being alone can also affect not only mental health, causing people to feel low and depressed but also bad for your physical health. Studies have shown that social isolation can cause damage to the immune system leading to a condition called chronic inflammation.

We live in a world where we're surrounded by technology allowing us to stay in touch with people both near and far.  We have the internet, mobile phones, skype, all the numerous platforms in social media yet four in 10 over 65's said their TV or pet was their main form of company.

We're not talking about just elderly, housebound frail people its right across the board all age groups seem to be affected to a certain degree.

It's not just ordinary folks that are dealing with loneliness even celebrities like Cilla Black and Lulu have recently been in the press stating they're lonely.

Cilla who at the time was in her early 70's blamed it on the fact that she was going deaf saying that she had lost touch with a lot of her friends. 

Lulu said in a recent interview ....... 'then there’s that feeling when you wake up in the middle of the night and you worry about the day when you won’t be able to look after yourself. Of being a burden. Of feeling lonely.’

She went on to say ........‘Somebody once said: “I have plenty of people to do things with. But nobody to do nothing with”. And I know what that means. After all, you can’t cuddle up to a round of applause.’

If celebrities struggle what can we do?   How are we going to be dealing with loneliness?

Do we just accept it or can we do something about it?

Finding Yourself Alone in Retirement

The most important message of this website is that you need to plan for your retirement.  Don't just drift into retirement not knowing what you're going to do for the next 20-30 years.  You need to put things in place early on to make sure you have structure and purpose in your life.  That way you will enjoy your retirement.  Everything changes in retirement and it's not unusal for people to suddenly find themselves dealing with  loneliness.

When we're working we have busy lives and perhaps don't make as much effort with our social life that we should preferring instead to catch up with chores in the evenings and weekends.  Bereavement, divorce, family moving away all add to the reasons why we find our circle of friends and family shrinking as we get older.

I've found that I have lost touch with a couple of friends who moved away making what was their holiday home into their permanent home once they retired.

Some spend their winters abroad only coming back to the UK in the summer and then there are the ones that take over child care for the grandchildren and can never find the time to meet up. 

It's sad but people move on and when you look back over your life there will no doubt be friends that have come and gone out of your life at various times.

Retirement can be a time when we are going to be dealing with loneliness particularly if your social life when you were working involved colleagues from work.  After you've retired they may stay in touch for a while but you may find as time goes on they drift away.

Building a Social Life

Dealing with loneliness and not just accepting that this is how it's going to be takes a little effort on our part.  We can't just sit at home with our pets and the t.v. for company.  We need to get out there and do things while we can.  As we all know life can change in an instant through illness or mobility problems.

There are many ways to broaden  your horizons and meet new people.   Think of the things that you enjoy  doing, whether it's reading, knitting, gardening, painting, walking, playing scrabble, card games or even travelling.

There are clubs for almost everything in your local community that are full of people with the same interests as you.  It sometimes takes a little courage to go into a group for the first time but on the whole people are usually friendly and if you smile and introduce yourself you will soon get chatting to others around you. 

If you do have a pet there are even pet walking groups to join rather than walking your dog on your own join a group of dog walkers and meet other people.

Do a little research check out your local library or local magazines and papers for advertisements of what's on.  Read the notices in local community centres and Churches that advertise various clubs and social events.

Voluntary Work

Becoming a volunteer worker is a great way of dealing with loneliness.  Check out your local charity shops, hospitals, hospices, community transport schemes and you will soon get out and about meeting other people. 

We should all try to be a good neighbour by visiting someone we know is alone and housebound.  I'm a great believer in you 'reap what you sow'.  One day we may be stuck in the house waiting for a neighbour to knock on the door to see if we're ok. The best way of finding friends is to be a friend to someone else.  That way dealing with your own loneliness will ease someone elses.

Sharing Your Home

If you have a spare bedroom and really don't like living alone why not consider sharing your home.  You not only have some company but you get help with the expense of running a home. 

Some of the benefits of home sharing

  • Companionship in having someone in the house for company, to share meals with and general interaction
  • Mutual support in having someone in the house with both looking out for each other particularly in the case of falls and illness.
  • Security in having another person in the house.
  • Financial assistance for the homeowner who gains a nominal rent that can alleviate stress and for the homesharer
  • Financial gain from a reduction on their outgoings through not supporting their own home.
  • For both there is a general increase in quality of life.

Read more about home sharing  

Dealing with Loneliness - Set Goals

Dealing with loneliness and not just accepting it can have many health benefits.  Being alone and miserable is not good for us.  Make one change at a time set yourself a goal to do one thing each week where you're going to meet people.

Once you've established some kind of social life with some activities that you enjoy you will be able to relax and enjoy the time you spend alone knowing that you have things to look forward to.

We all need someone we don't need masses of friends but we do need a few and however good facebook and twitter are a real friend who we can laugh and cry with is worth much more than a virtual one.

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