Loneliness is not just being alone. You can feel lonely even when you are surrounded by people. Loneliness means feeling isolated. It leaves you feeling sad or afraid. You may feel lonely because you are:
Spending too much time alone
Grieving over a loss, such as the death of a spouse
Feeling misunderstood, unloved, or useless
Loneliness is a problem for many older adults whose lives previously centered on the job they used to have or on family members and friends who are no longer around.
Does loneliness affect my health?
Loneliness can cause trouble sleeping, raise blood pressure, increase stress, and cause depression. Lonely people may not eat properly or get enough exercise. It may not seem worth the effort to shop and prepare food for one person to eat alone. Walking or exercising alone may not seem to be much fun either. Poor nutrition and lack of exercise can result in a lack of energy and stamina and contribute to health problems that affect older adults.
What can I do to feel less lonely?
Talking to others your own age may help you feel there are others who understand you. Children and grandchildren may be great, but if you have been feeling lonely in spite of their attention, look for support from your own age group. Close friends, brothers, and sisters are often supports throughout our lives. We all like to chat about the “old days.” Getting in touch with people from the past can help. You may be able to get information from family reunions, school reunions, the VFW, and other sources.
If you like company at mealtimes, call your local senior center and find out when meals are served. If you would like to walk with a group for exercise or join an exercise class, ask about that. If you like to dance, do crafts, or play cards, ask about activities. Be sure to ask about transportation if you need it. Joining in senior activities can be the start of new friendships.
Maybe you miss doing things for other people. If so, ask your local hospital, library, church, or senior center about volunteer opportunities. Volunteering and helping others can give new purpose and meaning to your life.
Try technology. Learn to use the Internet and email your children and grandchildren, research topics of interest, try social networking sites such as Facebook, or try free video calls using FaceTime or Skype. Learning about new technology can not only help with loneliness, it can also help keep your mind sharp.
Living alone can be hard to adjust to if you have always had family around you. It may be that the time has come to move out of a house that has become too big and empty. If so, there are senior communities that offer the privacy of your own apartment while providing dining facilities, group activities, and a built-in social life that you can join as much or as little as you wish. If you think this might suit you, take your time and look at several places before making up your mind.
Loneliness can happen when you feel unloved. If you feel like you are not getting the attention you need from others, it’s important to let them know. Be specific in telling them what would help you feel better. Let them know if you would like to see them more often. Usually making plans for a certain date and time will bring better results than being vague.
Consider getting a pet if you are able to afford and care for it. Pets can comfort you with touch and be a way to start conversations with other people. They can help you deal better with stress, grief, and loss. Pets may also help you feel safer and more secure. When you are around a pet, your blood pressure may be lower. Pets may help you stay more active and take better care of yourself.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-12-15 Last reviewed: 2014-12-15
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Loneliness in Older Adults: References
Rodlescia S. Sneed and Sheldon Cohen. Negative Social Interactions and Incident Hypertension Among Older Adults. Health Psychology 2014; 33(6):554-565.
Momtaz, Y PhD, Hamid, T PhD et al. Loneliness as a Risk Factor for Hypertension in Later Life. J Aging Health 2012; 24(4):696-710.
Stanley, Ian H., Conwell, Yeates, et al. Pet Ownership May Attenuate Loneliness Among Older Adult Primary Care Patients Who Live Alone. Aging and Mental Health 2014 Apr; 18(3):394-399.