A study in UK raised alarm about a loneliness crisis nationwide – where over 2 million people over 75 live alone. The report also states that “more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.” In many cases, this happens due to various reasons such as declining mobility, death of a spouse, retirement from work or simply losing touch with family. Loneliness can seriously impact a person’s health – but there are some steps seniors can take to avoid being caught in the loneliness trap.
- In today’s internet world, social media can be a great help to stay connected. Learn how to use a smartphone and apps such as Facebook and Whatsapp, which are commonly used in Singapore. Family members and friends with common interests often stay connected today using social media. There are all kinds of interest groups from high school friends to dogs. Staying in touch virtually also gives you an opportunity to meet up for coffee or lunch. More importantly, it is an opportunity to learn and share anything of interest to the group. If nothing else, you get your chance to share with others what you have been up to!
- Another way to counter loneliness if to plan your week or even your month ahead. Whether it is meeting up for a meal or a prayer group, by keeping your appointment book busy will fill the void of not having anything to do. Planning ahead to visit friends and family is also a good idea — as it also helps everyone keep you in their plans as well. Having something to look forward to is an important part of avoiding loneliness.
- Going back to school is a great way to stay relevant on current knowledge – by that I don’t meant getting your undergraduate or graduate degree. In Singapore, there are many short courses on a wide range of topics from baking to computers – most are only several weeks long. Keeping your mind active because learning is the best way to beat loneliness. Attending classes also gives you a great opportunity to meet new people.
- Doing good is a great way to feel good about yourself – and the surest way to keep loneliness away. Join a charity that allows you to help people and pursue something that you are passionate about. For example, if you like cooking, helping to prepare meals for the needy can be a fulfilling experience. In Singapore, you need not look far to get involved in helping others – just go to your neighbourhood community center.
Remember that loneliness can be a vicious downward spiral if you do not know how to keep it at bay. Start by following the four steps listed above. And if that fails, do not feel too proud to reach out. But you do need to put in effort to prevent loneliness from being all encompassing.