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Lonliness and Isolation

(39 Posts)
cathyeva Thu 19-Apr-12 09:14:06


From experience with my own grandparents, I have found that there is an increase in the way that they feel lonely and isolated. I think that this is an important issue as many more people are living a much longer time and I think systems or products need to be created and put in place to reduce this. I would love an open discussion about why you think that this is the case as you get older and also are there things that can solve this problem that isn't available at the moment, any feedback wold be appreciated.

Thank you,


dorsetpennt Thu 19-Apr-12 09:22:32

It's true that as we age and become more infirm we become more isolated. I've always thought it a huge mistake to retire and move to another area. I've known a few people who have done this and have lost friends and activites they've known for years. It all depends on where you live, how long you've lived there and are you 'joiner'?. You say' systems or products need to be created' what did you have in mind. There are various clubs and activities for those able to get about and hopefully there are family members that can help. However, if you are housebound then you must be extremely lonely.

Greatnan Thu 19-Apr-12 09:31:34

I am sure I will be a lone voice here - I have moved house many times in the last ten years, to various areas of France. Obviously, I knew nobody in my new area and now I live in complete isolation on the outskirts of a tiny village in the Alps. I haven't joined anything. I am perfectly happy.
It must be very sad to want and need companionship and not to have it, but some of us actually like being alone.
For those seeking company, many members have posted excellent suggestions of other threads. I can't think of any products that would help, unless you count a computer and the internet.

Carol Thu 19-Apr-12 09:35:21

I can identify with that Greatnan. I'm happy in my own company and don't want or need to see people every day. I have family nearby, and see them quite often because we have some very young children in the family and I don't want to miss their progress and all those cuddles. I don't fret if I have a few days on my own, though, and sometimes when it's busy I look forward to some time on my own.

nelliedeane Thu 19-Apr-12 09:36:03

Hi Cathyeva.My experience with my mum,she was from a generation that liked to keep themselves to themselvesach [born 1927] and pride was a big thing,when she became dependant on help she looked to her family-us-to do what we could,the gaps we couldnt fill that required carers etc where not welcomed by mum,as in all social groups being quite timid she felt intimidated by more robust forceful characters in the sheltered housing she eventually moved into,so in some ways her ow lonliness was self imposed.I believe that families have to mmove around more in search of work and housing and as in the old days there isnt always a family member near by to call in,infirmity,lack of transport particularly in rural areas,where loniliness is by no means confined to the elderly plays a big part..and society today where sometimes people donot know their neighbours and lack of community spirit I believe if each of us knocked on one elderly persons door and asked do you need pictureshopping...etc,but this in itself brings it own risks from unscrupulous people destroying trust so in the end every one does nothing..all I can say is yyou have an elderley neighbour keep an eye,and an ear and just knock and see if all is well have done this until we moved several times maybe each person playing a small part can solve a bigger picture....are you doing t

nelliedeane Thu 19-Apr-12 09:37:33

sorry got cut off was saying are you doing this for research or just personal interest it is a very emotive subject isnt it smile

nuttynorah Thu 19-Apr-12 10:51:47

My MIL is now 90yrs old and started using the internet when she was in her 80's. I would say it is the single most important thing in her life! She does her shopping, reads the news, emails people all over the world, especially those she "met" when researching family history online. She doesn't feel isolated at all. I know it wouldn't work for everyone but it might be worth encouraging older relatives to have a try, if they haven't already.
The advantage of using the computer is that MIL can stay in touch on her own terms. She doesn't like visitors & will only allow very close relatives into the house. About neighbours etc- she says "If I let them in once, they will always be round here". She doesn't particularly want to go out and if we take her anywhere, she can't wait to get home.
On the practical side, she carries her mobile everywhere and also has a local authority alarm, which she wears so that she can call for help if she falls. She would hate to be constantly checked up on by anyone, although she tolerates us!

cathyeva Thu 19-Apr-12 11:03:11

Wow, so many comments already which is great to hear your opinions which are all really interesting and as you all come from different perspectives. My situation is pretty similar to you nelliedeane, My grandma, born about the same time as your mum (1926) is also very independent and also really likes her own company and has a good social network or friends (by letter) and some by phone. However, she is outliving a lot of them her mental strength is strong even if physically she is a lot less mobile than she was even a few years ago. She has only just allowed us to get her help with cleaning her flat, which she was completely against for years, but her energy levels and the risk of injury has meant that now we can have some relief to know that this has been reduced somewhat. To get back to the point of lonliness though, my other grandma has really bad memory problems and knows who we are but can't really remember names unless she sees them everyday and also can't make food for herself, apart from cereal and cups of tea, so myself (when on holiday and away from university) but mainly my mum who is a full time district nurse so has a lot of experience with dealing with this and my step dad go in everyday to hep her with dinner, washing etc. But through the day when we are at work, she relys on paid help to take her to town, if she didn't have this help and luckily she is financially able to do this then she wouldn't be able to leave her flat all day. When I have spoken to her she speaks sadly of how she hates being inside and always wants to be outside and being physical even if this is walking into town and having a cuppa at the local cafe. So this came about from my own personal experieces with my family, but I am currently studying 3D design at Falmouth university and because this is something that I am interested in I wanted to incorporate this into a project. I don't have in mind anything in particular to design as nowadays we don't necessarily have to design an 'object' it could be a system put in place to allow older people to get around with more independence, especially those who aren't privilidged enough to pay for help everyday to take them out. But being outside in the natural environment and being socially active is something everybody knows is important for mental health even though Greatnan and Carol you seem extremely happy in your own company, is this because you have particular hobbies, interests? My Grandma (Omi) who is like yourself is an avid reader and I think from her childhood she has coped to be in her own company and enjoy it. What are your thought here? A few things I thought of with regards to products were maybe something like a satnav for people with bad memory problems, something with a really simple interface that you can program your home, favourite cafe, shops, post office etc, so you can get around by yourself, (I didn't know whether this was really patronising though). Also something that isn't an object, both my grandmas, were extremely good at dancing when they were younger and would go to the dance halls each week, but this is something that is lost in todays society, myself and all my friends just go to clubs, they don't and myself don't know any of the set dances like the fox trot, waltz tango etc, which I think is a great shame, I thought a sharing of knowledge between one generation to the other may be a good idea as we would both get something out of it.

Mamie Thu 19-Apr-12 11:27:53

I am not sure how you would do it, but I think there is a real shortage of good stuff for the Wii. I would love to have Tai chi for example and some dance routines, that don't involve disco, flashing lights and small figures that are hard to follow. The balance and strength stuff is good, but there doesn't seem to be much to move on to.

grannyactivist Thu 19-Apr-12 11:39:56

cathyeva what fortunate grandmothers you have to have such a caring and thoughtful granddaughter. smile

Gracesgran Thu 19-Apr-12 12:03:55

Gosh, this is a difficult one isn't it. It sounds as if it affects our own parents (often Mums) rather more than younger grans. My mother (born 1920) has never been a great joiner but has always been a good neighbour so she does have some interaction with her current neighbours. I was going to say "never been a great joiner like many of her generation" but then I realised I am not either. I have done the school committees and similar and belonged to other things to do with my children but have only "joined" on a few occasions things just for me. I am very happy with my own company but I can go out and meet up with friends if I choose. My mother could not go out alone and relies mainly on me for trips out. She had a fall last November and I did have my doubts at the time if she would go out again but she is quite indomitable and is able to be taken out for tea, etc., now. Our other problem (my daughter lives nearby and does what she can) is that she often doesn't know what day it is and, more to the point, how much time has past. This means she will say to me that her cleaner, who actually does two separate hours at the beginning and end of the week, need not come every day or she will say she hasn't seen anyone. She doesn't seem to be upset by it and is very grateful for everything we do but it makes me sad that she may feel abandoned.

nuttynorah Thu 19-Apr-12 13:37:40

Mamie your idea about the Wii is a great one. My MIL would love a chair-based exercise game!

cathyeva I think there are a lot of services and leisure activities specifically aimed at elderly people but the big problem is that they don't know that these services exist or are unable to access them.
For example, in South Yorkshire, the local bus company runs Dial-a-Ride and Shopper buses for those who can't use public transport, such as the elderly or disabled. In my immediate area, there are tea dances, luncheon clubs, a "keep moving" fitness programme, even narrowboat trips on a specially adapted boat!
Unfortunately, many people who would enjoy these activities are so cut off that they can't acccess them and that's the problem I would tackle.

goldengirl Thu 19-Apr-12 17:53:42

Believe it or not many people become lonely and isolated because of incontinence issues. They worry about needing a toilet when they are out and of course with many toilets closing or already closed this is proving an issue. The easiest way to avoid possible distress is not to go out which of course brings with it other health problems.

glammanana Thu 19-Apr-12 18:10:44

goldengirl So true until I had my "procedure" last year I did not go out socially unless I knew where the nearest loo was located lucky enough all my family and friends where very understanding,but if you find it hard to discuss the matter I can only imagine how isolated one must feel.

nelliedeane Thu 19-Apr-12 18:24:24

Goldengirl until you mentioned it I had forgotten mum was in a wheelchair for outings and took diuretics to get rid of extra fluid disabled Loos and hunting for Radar keys often meant mum didnt take her tablet...obviously not good or not drink all the time we where out and foregoing her morning cuppa,I above all prople should know this as I have to take them also but can nip to the loo whenever I like,she didnt want to be a nuisance and to my shameI used to get quite grumpy and stressed....poor mum blush

johanna Thu 19-Apr-12 19:41:30

I am so intrigued why you chose that name for your posts.
Can you share why you chose that name?

nelliedeane Thu 19-Apr-12 19:58:09

Because Deane was my maiden name...Johanna smile

iamjingl Thu 19-Apr-12 20:07:24

And did they really call you Nellie?

johanna Thu 19-Apr-12 20:15:51

How nice.
My OG nicknamed my mother nelliedean. This was nearly 40 years ago.
Initially , she was not impressed!
But then she came to love it.

nelliedeane Thu 19-Apr-12 20:31:10

No Iamjingle my name is pauline.....after being called fatty four eyes,and dumpling believe me Nellie is a better option smile

iamjingl Thu 19-Apr-12 20:31:54


humbred Mon 06-May-13 22:51:54

I am a male and would like to learn ball room dancing.I did it some time ago but left off too long. I live in the |Sutton area.Thank you

janeainsworth Tue 07-May-13 08:12:32

Humbred I am sure if you google 'Ballroom Dancing in Sutton' something will come up.
Most dancing schools will offer tuition either in groups or one-to-one, and organise social dances.
I'm sure you'll be made very welcome smile

FlicketyB Wed 08-May-13 00:31:20

One of the causes of loneliness I found among older people when I was a home visitor, and also with my parents in law is that their social life was outside the house.

When my M or FiL walked down the street, it was one long conversation with almost everybody they met. They had lived in the same large village/small town all their lives. My MiL had taught the reception class in the local primary school for over 30 years. They knew everybody and everybody knew them, but very few, if any one, who was not family was ever invited into the house, so when my FiL's ill health made both virtually housebound so did most of their socialising, they still had family close by and so saw a family member most days but the wider social world was cut off.

The belief that technology can help is, I think, over rated. It is fine when the older person keeps their full mental faculties to the end but I have seen a number of elderly people who were completely familiar with computers gradually loose that capacity and any interest once they began to suffer any mental impairment, from mild fuzziness to the early stages of dementia, when the person with the dementia was still capable of living independently.

There is no way of wriggling out of it, the only way to alleviate the loneliness of older people, especially those house bound, is for them to have regular, physical, one to one, contact with people whose company they enjoy and who visit them regularly and enjoy it.

celialillian Wed 01-Apr-15 16:47:49

I have just read all your comments with great interest...of course some people are happy with there own company for a short while, but sharing pleasure and happiness with another person is a lovely feeling, also there are people who are insecure, through problems in there childhood.....I can cope with living alone, but having no family for hundreds of miles, and that is a son and a daughter only..i was told to join things and meet people and make friends' I joined many groups and got to know a lot of people, but it seems to end there, we say goodbye after a chat and coffee, and it is then 3 weeks before I see any of them people get older they seem set in there friendships and families and have no reason to want to make new friends. And after many many years of trying to make closer friends I feel just as lonely as I did at the start. I have analysed my personality, everyone seems to enjoy talking to me where ever I go, so whats the answer to this problem?