Loneliness among the elderly is one of our country’s rarely discussed national crises. In the UK there are at least 1.2 million chronically lonely older people and that figure is only set to rise with continuing government cuts in social care. Shocking stuff indeed. But rather than inaction and the usual shrugging of the shoulders, there are a number of opportunities out there for the elderly to socialise, if they’re able. Here’s just a few ideas; our 6 IDEAL ways to improve your social life in old age.

VOLUNTEER 

Although retirement is supposed to be a break from work, it can also represent a sudden change and a bit of a shock to the social system. A straight shift from working five days a week to zero can often lead to boredom and loneliness. Volunteering for a charity or working a part-time job could be an answer to this, enabling older folk to meet new people through volunteering, often in a similar age range to their own. It’s also a good way to fend off dementia and other illnesses, as it keeps the brain stimulated and body active, whilst also supporting the local community or a charity. Bravo.

Should you be on the other side of the fence, young, able and looking to lend a hand, then here are 5 IDEAL volunteering ideas to help the elderly.

MAKE REGULAR PLANS WITH FAMILY & FRIENDS 

Making regular plans to meet up with friends or family is essential to avoiding feelings of loneliness; having that name scribbled and secured on the calendar can provide that all important ‘something to look forward to’ which can mean so much to people with a little more time on their hands. Perhaps the best way is to set a fixed day, each and every week, where a visit occurs, even if it’s just for a coffee or lunch. The little things can mean so much.

JOIN A CLUB 

Joining a club or a group is a brilliant way to improve your social life. With most running weekly, it’s a great way to make and see friends regularly, and secures another spot on the calendar so important at keeping a sense of despondency at bay. Here are a few ideas:

Arts and Crafts: For anyone who enjoys working with their hands, an arts and crafts club could be perfect. Whether you’re shy or outgoing, this type of activity allows a gentle focal point around which socialising can revolve. It’s also not half bad for dexterity. Arts and crafts clubs can cover a wide variety of activities, such as making antique jewellery with a personal touch, sewing or painting.

Senior Swimming: Senior swimming sessions are held at nearly all pools nationwide weekly, and give the opportunity to both keep fit and socialise; two essentials for anyone in old age. If swimming isn’t appealing to you, there are many other sports and activities that will keep you moving and socialising, such as golf, bowls or simply a walking club.

Lunch Clubs: Exactly what it sounds like — a group who meet up weekly to share lunch and chat; and that sounds good to us! A lunch club encourages conversation over various topics, such as hobbies, politics, or even your new favourite book, and the nourishment of a lovely meal cooked for you certainly does no harm either.

Choir: Joining a choir has been said by Oxford University to be hugely beneficial to health and happiness. What’s more, choirs are great places to socialise, with most having out-of-hour socials and events. Often church-based, there are many other activities and volunteering opportunities within the church, especially for the elderly.

CONSIDER A FLUFFY COMPANION 

A dog doesn’t only provide domestic companionship, they also allow for ice breakers when taking them for a walk, and the obvious exercise which that brings, too. If the pressure of owning and caring for a dog is too much, then try doing some dog walking as a part time job or hobby instead. Check in with your local RSPCA centre, who offer dog walking and handling for those struggling with loneliness. Lovely stuff!

GET GREEN FINGERED 

How exactly does growing vegetables stop feelings of loneliness? It’s actually the interaction with the other owners and farmers at the allotment which gives the opportunity for socialising, and also gives a much needed reason to leave the house to tend to your crops. There are also the added benefits of regular exercise from digging topsoil and lifting growbags and watering cans, which offers that all important active side which all good hobbies for the elderly should provide. Allotments often require two or three visits each week; a great excuse to get out there and amongst it, we think.