At one time or another, everyone experiences the pain of loneliness. But did you know that loneliness is a challenge that 30 – 40 percent of seniors are all too familiar with? That loneliness is often more pronounced as illness, major lifestyle changes, and relocations separate seniors from the people and activities they formerly enjoyed and counted on.
If loneliness has become your unwelcome companion, know this: you are not stuck with it. Even if you doubt your ability to move forward, there are several key actions you can take to begin to replace loneliness with friendship and the companionship you enjoy. But first, why not start with the people you are already connected to?
- Revive old friendships
Before looking to create new friends, hit the “Refresh” button on the people you consider friends from the past. With social media, it’s easier than ever to track down someone from your college years, your old neighborhood, or a former workplace…and then, reach out. Research suggests that reminiscing with “good people about good times” improves our outlook and our sense of well-being, so why not go for it? You may be surprised by the appreciation coming back at you.
- Explore new ways to engage with family
Are you stuck in a rut with the people you love most? During the pandemic, many seniors tried their hand at virtual get-togethers and can’t imagine stopping now. Schedule them, put them on your calendar, and don’t cancel! You might also consider reaching out to one family member each week or each month by calling, sending a card, or putting a thoughtful “little something” in the mail for them. And when they invite you to visit for a long weekend or family celebration, say “Yes” instead of “No.” The point is to rethink how you engage and to try something new.
Now you’re ready to focus on “blooming where you are planted.”
- Consider the new friendships you want to develop
Making friends and creating new relationships right where you are is important for your well-being. So give some thought to the types of friendships you’d like to pursue. For example, it might be someone with whom you can enjoy a similar passion or interest, whether it’s books, bird watching, or bowling. If exploring a new interest or hobby is on your mind, you might prefer doing so with a companion. Or maybe you just want a few friends to have coffee with. Get clear, but also stay open to other ideas.
- Remember “Birds of a Feather”
You may be surprised to discover how many clubs, groups, associations, and meet-ups you can find within close proximity by simply Googling a word or phrase. Many of these are actively seeking new members, so why not reach out? Doing so may open up a whole new world of friends and outings that are right up your alley. Here are two good reasons to join an established interest group: first, you already share something in common with others in the group, and second, structured, scheduled get-togethers create the continuity that leads to a booked calendar and potential friendships.
Did you know that over 40% of retirees in the United States are volunteers? The rewards of volunteering are many, including a sense of contribution and fulfillment, as well as the opportunity to meet new people. You might seek out a cause that matches your passions and your experience, or, try something that’s entirely new. Organizations appreciate the work experience and the work ethic that retirees bring to their volunteer role.