Have you ever felt lonely? Are you worried that someone you know might be lonely?
Loneliness can affect many people, of different ages and at different stages of life but it can affect older people in particular, especially if they do not have a partner into older age or family around them.
Recent research from the group Campaign to End Loneliness has shown how detrimental loneliness can be to a person’s health, especially for older people. Loneliness is a bigger problem than simply an emotional experience. Research shows that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health: lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is worse for us than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity.
Take a good look at the older people you know. Do you think they are lonely? Is there something you can do to help?
If you live far away from family it can be harder to help with this but there are some things you can do:
- phone them on a regular basis
- encourage your children and other family members to phone them on a regular basis
- send photos and cards and letters regularly, maybe drawings the children have done – if they are good with a computer then email them
- encourage them to mingle in their local community
- encourage them to attend social groups, gatherings and events
- if you can, visit regularly and encourage others to do the same
If you live nearby older friends and relatives then there are lots more things you can do to ensure they are not lonely. If someone tells you they don’t want to spend time with you that can be hard to hear. I would always make sure they knew the offer was there and continue to encourage them, as some older people decline because they feel they are a burden or in the way. However, you can’t force anyone to spend time with others, many people learn to manage on their own and some prefer it that way.
Sunrise Senior Living are supporting this campaign to raise awareness about loneliness in old age and ensure older people have the life they want and the care they need. You can support the campaign by:
- spending time with older relatives and neighbours
- encouraging your children and other family members to do the same
- including them in family days out where you can
- including them in family meals and gatherings
- encouraging interaction between old and young – both generations can benefit hugely from this
- playing games together
- taking walks together
- offering to support them with trips to the supermarket etc so they can get out and about
- doing a skills/knowledge exchange – there are so many things we can learn from older people and you could teach them how to use a computer or mobile (both things which also help to combat loneliness)
Is there a recipe you have been wanting to try out? Perhaps you could use this as an opportunity to try it out? What about a nice risotto? Tomato and Basil Risotto is really tasty but also appeals to most palettes. We love this one:
20g salted butter
10ml olive oil
3 tomatoes – cored, seeded and diced
¼ Spanish onion – diced
½ garlic clove – crushed
220g Arborio rice
400ml vegetable stock
20ml double cream
30g fresh basil – chopped
70g goats cheese – sliced (easy to leave out as it doesn’t appeal to everyone)
Pinch of ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
Roasted vegetables (optional):
100g butternut squash – diced and roasted
½ red pepper – diced and roasted
1. Heat the oil over a moderate heat and add the
onion as well as garlic to the pan. Sauté until
the onion softens. Then add the tomatoes and
seasoning. Sauté for a further 3-4 minutes.
2. Add the rice, mix thoroughly and sauté for
3-4 minutes. You can add the optional roasted
vegetables at this stage.
3. Gradually add the vegetable stock, stirring
until all the liquid is absorbed.
4. Continue stirring until the rice is tender
and creamy but still firm, then add the
butter and cream.
5. To serve, top with basil and cheese.
Imagine how you might feel in their situation. Would you want to be alone?
We might not have the cure for lots of things that affect people in later life but we can combat loneliness.