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How to get help for loneliness

Most people who feel lonely want to increase the quality or quantity of contact with other people. Read about ways to tackle feelings of loneliness.
6 min read
In this article
Spending time outside of the home Getting online Making new friends Volunteering Changing living arrangements
Animal companions Befriending services Befriending charities Loneliness caused by mental health problems

Spending time outside of the home

A change of scenery can improve your mood and help to alleviate feelings of loneliness – even if it’s as simple as a trip to the shops or a walk in the local park. If you still drive, you could plan a day trip to the coast or the countryside, and you may find other friends would happily join you.

 

Alternatively, investigate local coach companies who may have a programme of day trips. People who are disabled may be able to get help with mobility, drive take a look at our advice on alternatives to driving.

Getting online

Computers can open up a whole new world of social interaction. For example, you could Skype or FaceTime with friends and family who live far away (although, you’ll need to add a webcam to your computer if it doesn’t have an in-built one). Skyping or FaceTiming allow you to keep in touch without the worry of running up large telephone bills, because they use the internet instead, with the added bonus of being able to see the people you’re talking to.

 

You might also be able to renew contact with old friends on Facebook or other social networking sites. You may enjoy playing online games, either as a solitary activity or with other people. There are also many specialist closed groups on Facebook, which means you can enjoy conversations together about a subject you're interested in without worrying about this information being shared on your public Facebook page. For example, if you enjoy gardening, there is a Which? Gardening Facebook group that you could explore.

 

The internet is also a good way of researching local groups and clubs that might be of interest, as this will allow you to become more social offline as well as online.

 

If you’re not confident with computers, it might be worth doing a course. Lots of libraries, local authorities and adult education centres run courses for adults, or specifically for ‘silver surfers’. Find your local authority's website page to find out what's on offer in your area.

Making new friends

It’s never too late to make new friends and there are lots of ways to meet people.

 

Joining a local club or group can be a good way of combating feelings of loneliness. You might consider joining a local club to do something that you enjoy, such as bridge, bowls or walking. Or you might want to join a class to explore a new hobby, such as art, creative writing, learning a new language or photography. Many local schools and colleges offer part-time courses for adults and older people often get reduced rates. Although you may not know anyone in the group before you join, the reassuring thing is that you can be sure you’ll have something in common with everyone else from the outset, making it easier to talk to people and become friends.

Joining a local club or group can be a good way of combating feelings of loneliness.

If you’re in good health, you could take part in a fitness class, such as yoga, Pilates, aerobics or Zumba. Many leisure centres offer exercise classes especially for older people, which are low impact and often have reduced prices. Fitness classes are a good way to make new friends, increase social interaction and keep active. Before you join a fitness class, always check with your GP that the particular form of exercise is suitable for you. Good fitness instructors will always ask you about your health when you attend your first class, too.

 

The University of the Third Age (U3A) is a self-help organisation for people no longer in full-time employment, providing educational, creative and leisure opportunities in a friendly environment. It has local branches across the UK. Contact U3A for more information and to find local groups.

 

Or perhaps you might consider attending a day centre as a way of socialising and making new friends.

 

Contact the Elderly is a charity working to end loneliness among older people in the UK, and holds regular free Sunday afternoon tea parties for people over 75 years of age and who live alone. It collects people from their homes and takes them to a volunteer host’s home for the afternoon.

 

Volunteering

 

If you’re still quite active and mobile, you might also like to consider volunteering for a local charity. Most high streets have charity shops and you may be able to volunteer to help out for a few hours a week. You’ll be able to meet new people and keep busy, while helping others at the same time.

 

Other options might include volunteering at a local Citizens Advice Bureau, helping at the local hospital or animal shelter. You can also search for volunteering opportunities at:

Changing living arrangements

Many people start to feel lonely if they think they are ‘rattling around’ in a large house that has become too big for their needs, so it may be time to consider downsizing from a family home with too many unused rooms.

 

There are several other options too, such as sheltered housing, a retirement village or a complex of flats specially designed for independent living but with communal areas where you can meet for social events.

 

Or, if your health has become a worry for you, you may also want to consider a move to a care home. Such a move could bring a whole new set of opportunities for getting to know people of a similar age. You can find out about the alternative living arrangements in our dedicated section on housing options.

Animal companions

If you’re able to look after a pet, this can provide a much-loved companion. Dog walking could help you to get out and about, and potentially meet new people. Taking care of a pet can lift people’s spirits, making them feel more positive and in control. Just ensure that you’re aware of basic safety issues, such as walking in well-lit places and not going anywhere too remote - always take a mobile phone with you.

 

If you’re unable to have your own pet, you might like to volunteer at a local animal rescue centre.

If you’re able to look after a pet, this can provide a much-loved companion.

Befriending services

Several charities offer befriending services, where an older person is assigned a ‘friend’ who will contact them on a regular basis to provide friendly chat and companionship. Befrienders are volunteers. They can call you on the phone at a set time each week, or visit you at home for, say, a cup of tea or to go out for a walk together. You could even become a ‘befriender’ to another older person who wants someone to chat to.

 

Befriending charities

 

Esther Rantzen’s charity The Silver Line is a free, confidential 24-hour phone line for older people offering information and friendship. You can call at any time for advice, information or simply a chat. The charity also offers a befriending service. Silver Circles are conference calls for several like-minded people who would like to chat in a group. Silver Letters is for people who like to write and receive hand-written letters, or may be hearing impaired.

 

The Silver Line

A free confidential telephone helpline offering information, friendship and advice to older people in the United Kingdom that's available 24 hours a day.

thesilverline.org.uk

Helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people:

0800 470 8090

24 hours a day, every day of the year

 

Age UK provides information, advice and support for older people, including local befriending schemes.

Age UK

Age UK helps with the challenges you face in later life. Its vision is to make the UK a great place to grow older by inspiring, supporting and enabling in a number of ways.

ageuk.org.uk

For the Age UK advice line and befriending service, call:

0800 055 6112

Every day, 8am–7pm, including all bank holidays

 

Independent Age also has a helpline and befriending service.

 

Independent Age

As well as offering regular contact and a strong campaigning voice, the charity provides older people and their families with clear, free and impartial advice on the issues that matter: care and support, money and benefits, health and mobility.

independentage.org

Call the Independent Age helpline or email at advice@independentage.org for advice or to receive regular phone calls or visits:

0800 319 6789

Mon–Fri, 8am–8pm; Sat, 9am–1pm; closed Sun and public holidays


Loneliness caused by mental health problems

 

If you are caring for a someone and you think their loneliness is caused by underlying mental health issues or depression, rather than their individual circumstances, encourage them to visit their GP for advice. Their GP might offer medication or refer them to a counsellor. You can find details of counsellors from the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) or the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).

 

The Samaritans

The Samaritans provides 24-hour support for anyone having a difficult time.

The Samaritans

Whatever you're going through, you can call the Samaritans free any time, from any phone on:

116 123

 

Further reading

Causes of loneliness

Older people can be particularly vulnerable to feelings of loneliness and isolation. We explain why you may be affected ...

Possible health consequences

Loneliness can make people feel miserable, but in some cases it can also lead to serious problems such as alcoholism, ...

Taking exercise

Find out more about how to stay active and healthy in older age, with advice on doing gentle home exercise.

Last updated: 18 Sep 2018