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Feeling lonely as you get older

Feeling lonely? You're not the only one. According to research we did in partnership with the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, almost three-quarters of older people in the UK are lonely and more than half of those have never spoken to anyone about how they feel. 

feeling lonely 

The stigma of loneliness and isolation

Despite this being a widespread issue, no one really wants to admit to being lonely. We don't want to be a burden to our family and friends and most certainly don't want anyone's pity.

But being isolated is something we need to address. We are by nature social animals. We are programmed to need to feel part of something - a community, a network, a part of something bigger than ourselves.


Feeling lonely - why do I feel this way?

In today's fast-paced world, busy-ness is often priortised over personal connections. Families are under more pressure financially and may well live far away from each other. Many of our members are long-distance grandparents, with family and grandchildren living as far away as Australia, Canada and the US. Skype, FaceTime and even Facebook are all wonderful ways of staying in touch more easily. It's not quite the same as having them in the same room of course but it's great to be able to interact via screen rather than over a bad phone connection.  


Should I move in order not to feel so isolated?

If you are very close to our family, the temptation to follow them across the country (or indeed, globe) can be a strong one. For some this works very well but there are some unforeseen complications that could arise. If you are considering moving closer to your grandchildren, here are a few things you might want to consider first.

skype grandchildren


Ill health or disabilities leading to loneliness

Increasing years, sadly, also takes a toll on our bodies and minds. Some of us find ourselves isolated because we simply aren't able to leave the house without a massive effort or indeed, help from someone else. In these situations an online 24/7 community like the forums on Gransnet can be a huge help. There is always someone online and it's very likely you'll find someone ready and willing to offer you advice, support, a laugh - or even a virtual slice of cake.


Coping with retirement

"I think the popular press would have us believe that retirement is all beer and skittles but for many people it isn't like that and there is a void."

While some people take to retirement like a duck to water (see gransnetters' favourite things about being retired), you might be one of those who takes a little longer to adjust. Yes, lie-ins are lovely but not having an everyday routine or regular interaction with work colleagues and friends, can leave you feeling isolated. Some gransnetters even admit to missing their bosses! Their advice is to embrace the freedom as much as you can, get rid of your watch and take a little time to try and discover the things you actually like (rather than have) to do. 


Feeling lonely in a relationship

For some people retirement also means suddenly spending more time with a partner which can throw up all sorts of issues. Gransnetters know only too well about dreaded 'Retired Husband Syndrome' and the curse of the Grumpy Old Man. As with most things, it's usually an adjustment period, and once you've both found your new roles and got used to seeing more of each other than before, gransnetters report that things do get easier. 


Bereavement or divorce

arguing coupleOf course, some people have lost their beloved (even if they were grumpy) old men and coming to terms with bereavement (or indeed divorce) can be extremely difficult at a time when you thought you'd have all the time in the world together. Talking to family, friends, organisations such as Relate or even others on Gransnet who are in similar positions can be incredibly helpful.  


Loneliness and depression

"It is important to remember that depression is an illness. Just because other people can't see it doesn't make it any less corrosive than, say, cancer (and I am a cancer survivor!)."

It won't come as a surprise to many that loneliness has been identified as a major risk factor for depression. Being on the receiving end of love gives people the opportunity to discuss their mental health condition and ask for help. If they are alone, this opportunity doesn't exist and they have no way of finding a way out. So what can you? If you feel yourself becoming depressed, it's important to tell someone. Don't bottle it up and hope you'll feel better in the morning. Britons have a reputation for keeping a stiff upper lip which prevents us from seeking help when we need it. Friends, family members or GPs are there to listen and advise and there is no shame in receiving treatment for what is a very real and common disease. 


Signs of loneliness and depression

What are the signs or symptoms you need to look out for if you think you, a loved one, or even a neighbour might be depressed? Physical symptoms may be more obvious and may include:

  • fluctuations in weight
  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue
  • restless sleep or insomnia

Emotional symptoms may manifest themselves in:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • feeling tearful
  • feelings of guilt and/or hopelessness
  • feeling irritable

Be aware of yourself and those around you and if you notice these symptoms, don't be afraid to talk about it and seek help. If you're want to find out more, then do look at our in-depth guide to depression for more information.


What can I do to feel less lonely?

The first step is realising that you are not alone in your loneliness. Then you need to shake off the cobwebs and get out there (easier said than done, we get it). Here are just a few things that other gransnetters have found worked for them. 


1) Routine

Unanimously the advice on Gransnet is to set a daily routine. It needn't be onerous and there's no need to overfill your diary, but starting the day at roughly the same time and getting the usual morning routines out the way early is one way to stop inertia setting in. 


2) Have something planned for a Monday

mindful mondayGetting the week off to a productive start is the best way of setting a positive tone for the rest of the week. Even if you falter by Thursday at least you will have accomplished something early on. Put something in the diary - be it a course, an appointment, an afternoon gardening or a lunch out - and stick to it. 


3) Make friends

Of course no one's going to replace the old ones, but if circumstance means they're not round the corner anymore you're going to need someone else to share that cake with on a more regular basis. Read our helpful page on making friends later in life. And check out your Gransnet Local site to see if there are meet-ups happening in your local area. 


4) Learn something new

Where to start? From local classes, to U3A talks and free online courses, there's no end to ways to fill your time. Take a look at 10 ways to keep your mind sharp with suggestions ranging from language classes to ancestry and Tai Chi. 

The following organisations also offer classes and discussions that might be of interest:


5) Volunteer

There are loads of opportunities to help out your local community. Be that at a charity shop, for an animal shelter, your local community centre etc. 

Or you could find out more about becoming a Local Editor and meet up with other gransnetters living nearby. 


Other helpful organisations








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