Loneliness isn’t something that is pleasant to experience and with the news that loneliness can affect our physical health too, we are more aware of the negativity surrounding it. 136,000 older people in Ireland live on their own – it doesn’t mean that they are all lonely of course but it does mean that the potential or reality of loneliness is there for many of them.
For many older people, they may have grown up in a busy household full of siblings. They may have moved out of the family home to get married and have their own family. Their children have grown up and moved away, a spouse has died and now, for the first time in their lives, they are living on their own. In rural Ireland, it often happened that two siblings remained on the farm to look after aged parents and to continue farming – these were often a brother and sister. Other siblings moved to England or America and it was often the youngest that remained at home. If one sibling died, the other is now living on his or her own for the first time. One can see that the adjustment could be difficult, particularly if access to transport is a hurdle.
What can be done to prevent or combat loneliness?
- Having A Pet – Having a pet can be a source of great company. I always think you can chat away to a dog and he will agree with every word you say! Cats make good company too. The advantage of a small dog is that they need exercise but not too much so it’s a good reason to get out for a walk every day, even if the weather is a little off-putting.
- Reading – Reading books in a favourite genre can make the hours fly by especially if you become embroiled in the storyline. It’s a wonderful way to enjoy your own company and the silence. Attending a book club or the library on a regular basis means that you get to chat about your favourite reads which maximises the enjoyment of reading too.
- Home Care – Some will think that home care is just for older people who need assistance with personal care but that is very far from the case. Many of our clients need minimal assistance with shopping, provision of medication or with personal care but knowing that someone is going to call in for an hour a day makes all the difference, particularly as they know that person will chat, be cheery, and listen to their stories. A home carer provides good company as well as all the other care requirements.
- Join A Club – Joining a club that you can attend on a weekly basis means that there is always something to look forward to and enjoy. Whether it is bowls, knitting, darts, bridge, dancing, it doesn’t matter. It is all about enjoying your hobby, getting out of the house and meeting people.
- Local Festivals – The beauty of festivals is they come and they go but they offer wonderful entertainment and stimulations for a short length of time which can make a fortnight extremely busy if you avail of what is on offer. For example, if you enjoy gardening, there are various gardening festivals around the country (e.g. the Carlow Garden Festival) which last for about ten days each with lots to see and do. The Kilkenny Arts Festival starts this week and has a host of arts, plays, exhibitions and concerts to choose from.
- Volunteering – If you can, see if you can take up a volunteer role in some form. Examples include working in a charity shop, visting in a hospital or offering tour guide services at a local cathedral.
Do you think loneliness is becoming a growing problem despite the fact that we are more connected (online) than ever before? What would you recommend to combat loneliness?