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Loneliness in Older Adults: 11 Tips for Coping with Loneliness

Written by 
Molly Burford
Reviewed by 
Emanuel Singleton, NP

Article at a glance

  • After age 65, people tend to experience more feelings of loneliness for a variety of reasons including being more socially isolated.

  • Prolonged loneliness and isolation are associated with a number of poor outcomes in both regards to physical and mental health. This is why it’s so important to combat loneliness. 

  • There are various ways to connect more with others and foster positive relationships that can help alleviate feelings of loneliness.

Feeling lonely from time to time is a normal component of the human condition. However, prolonged bouts of loneliness can lead to a number of health issues, both physical and mental. Human connection is vital to one’s quality of life.

Loneliness impacts young adults as well as older people, especially during what has been coined an epidemic of loneliness.” That said, loneliness can particularly affect older adults after age 65. This has become even more of an issue since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic due to social distancing as well as the health risks associated with socializing due to the virus.

This article will discuss strategies for coping with loneliness as an older adult specifically as well as general information about loneliness and tips to overcome loneliness.
 

The Biology Of Loneliness

Just like humans hunger for food and thirst for hydration, loneliness is a signal for social connection. From an evolutionary perspective, human beings require social ties for survival. While people are no longer hunting and gathering as a means of living, having solid social ties is still vital for health because it provides us with community and extended resources.

The Mental And Physical Health Effects Of Feeling Lonely

Feeling lonely on a regular basis can impact both mental and physical health in numerous ways.

Mental Health Effects

Loneliness can impact one’s psyche and cause a number of mental health problems such as: 
 

Depression

Anxiety

Dementia

Cognitive decline

Physical Health Effects

Research suggests that loneliness and social isolation can increase one’s risk for a variety of health problems such as: 
 

Heart disease

Obesity

High blood pressure

Weakened immune function

Poor sleep

Death

Because of the mental and physical health risks, seeking social support is vital to one’s overall wellness.
 

How Loneliness Affects Older Adults

Vulnerable older adults are at a higher risk for both social isolation and loneliness for a number of reasons. According to The National Institute on Aging, older adults are more prone to experiencing isolation and feelings of loneliness because of the social and health changes that often occur with aging such as hearing issues, vision problems, memory loss, disability, transportation difficulties, and the loss of family and friends.

Despite these reasons, loneliness can be difficult to talk about. Many have felt lonely at some point in their lives, but chronic loneliness—where loneliness sticks around for weeks, months, and even years—can leave us feeling isolated and ashamed. However, this doesn’t have to be the case.

Tips For Coping With Loneliness

There are a number of strategies that can help combat loneliness and infuse more connection in your day-to-day life.

1. Find A Hobby

Finding a hobby is a fantastic way to make more social connections. Besides decreasing loneliness, taking a class in your chosen activity can also help you meet new people with similar interests and broaden your social circles.

Note: For more ideas on social activities for seniors, visit this source.

2. Schedule Regular Socializing

Spending time with family members and friends is another great option for increasing socialization. Having a standing lunch date, for example, can give you something to look forward to each week and foster meaningful relationships beyond regular social interaction.

3. Embrace Technology

Technology can be a helpful tool to help people feel less lonely. Contacting people online through social media and video calls is an easy way to stay connected.

4. Community Activities

Finding activities in the community can help foster stronger social relationships. Some ideas include exercising outdoors to get some fresh air, joining a yoga class, or attending a game night at a local community center.

5. Use Eldercare Locator

Eldercare Locator is a program that connects people to services for older adults as well as their family members. This can include transportation to treatment facilities, support groups, and more.

6. Practice Self-care

Practicing self-care is vital for overall well-being. This includes getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, getting enough exercise, and keeping up with health appointments.

7. Avoid Comparing

Especially on social media, it’s easy to believe that people online have a better social life than you do, but try to remember that social media is merely a highlight reel and never tells the full story.

8. Talk to a Healthcare Professional

Talking with a health care provider, such as a therapist or mental health professional, can help make navigating difficult feelings such as social anxiety and loneliness easier. They can teach coping skills for the times one may feel lonely and improve emotional health and wellness.

9. Daily Connections

Even if it’s just a brief conversation with the grocery store clerk, a neighbor, or the mail person. Social interaction of any kind can help anyone experiencing loneliness feel connected and less alone.

10. Be Honest

Talk to a family member, friend, or another trusted person about feelings of loneliness. Everyone knows what it is like to feel lonely and you may be surprised to find people are more than willing to help you cope with those difficult feelings.

While everyone experiences loneliness from time to time, prolonged bouts of loneliness can be detrimental to physical and mental health which is why being open and talking about your feelings with people you feel comfortable with is so vital. 

11. Volunteer

Volunteering in your community can not only help you bond with others but can also give you a sense of purpose and connection to something greater than yourself. Feelings of altruism and volunteering can potentially increase life satisfaction and positive outlooks as well.
 

Resources for a Lonely Person or Their Loved Ones

It’s normal to have bouts of loneliness or sadness but if it begins to linger, it’s vital to talk with someone and get help.

Some resources that may be beneficial include:

Find a Therapist in Your Area

The Recovery Village

GoodTherapy Database

Talkspace Online Therapy

Call Centers

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline: 1–800-662-HELP (4357)

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1–800-273‑8255 (TALK)

Suicide Prevention Lifeline for Hearing Impaired: 1–800-799‑4889

The Samaritans: (877) 870‑4673 (HOPE)

Text Hotlines

Crisis Text Line (Or, on your smartphone, text HOME to 741741)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

IMAlive

FAQ

How do seniors cope with loneliness?

Some ways that seniors can cope with loneliness can include keeping in touch with family members and friends, joining community organizations, and volunteering in their area.

What does loneliness look like in older adults?

Loneliness can show up in multiple ways, but those who experience chronic loneliness may be more isolated and disconnected from the world around them. They may also suffer from conditions such as depression or anxiety, as well as physical symptoms such as fatigue.

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