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Coping with loneliness in later life

What is loneliness?

Loneliness is a feeling that most of us will experience at some point in our lives. The way we experience loneliness will be different to everyone.

It can affect us when we’re physically alone, or when we’re surrounded by people.

As we get older, we’re especially vulnerable to loneliness and isolation. More than  2 million people in our country aged 75 and over live alone.

There are lots of reasons why we might feel lonelier and more isolated as we get older. Retirement, bereavement, smaller social circles and illness are just some of the changes in life that mean we can experience social isolation.

Whatever the circumstance for you, there are practical ways to deal with it and get support.

If our social contact is limited for reasons beyond our control, this can come as a sudden shock to us and the feelings of loneliness can be quite intense.

Coronavirus has caused many of us to experience these feelings.

Senior woman on the phone at home

What causes it?

Coronavirus has forced thousands of people to self-isolate, which can be a shock to the system. People aren’t able to see their friends and family, do activities, or even go out and enjoy being around strangers.

Being limited to the house, especially if you live alone, can create strong feelings of loneliness.

However there doesn’t always need to be a trigger for someone to experience loneliness. Other life events can mean people feel lonely, such as:

  • Moving to a new town or city
  • Experiencing a loss
  • Developing health issues Retiring

*Information sourced from mind.org

There are many other causes of loneliness and one trigger for one person may not be the same for another.

How loneliness can affect people

Loneliness is a feeling which can be emotionally painful. However, it can affect people in different ways.

We are not destined to experience loneliness as we age, however it is more likely to affect pensioners due to reasons mentioned above.

Studies have noted that loneliness can have an impact our immune system, quality of sleep and risk of heart disease.3

Other research has shown that loneliness can increase your chance of dying by 26%.

It can also be linked with mental health problems. Feeling isolated or lonely can make mental health problems worse. And existing mental health problems may worsen the feeling of being lonely.

Loneliness increases with age, so it’s important to try to take steps to combat it.

Older couple at home on their iPad

What do to do?

The spread of Coronavirus means people are being forced to stay inside. This might be with friends, family, or by yourself if you live alone.

If you are experiencing feelings of loneliness whilst unable to leave the house, here are some things you could do to help.

Practical advice and support

There are many types of support service available that could be useful. For example:

  1. Charities that offer befriending services. There are lots of charities that offer telephone befriending services. These put you in touch with volunteer befrienders who can call at a time convenient to you for a friendly chat. Some organisations will try to match people with a volunteer who has similar interests. Organisations include:
  2. Online communities – there are communities online that are free to join which allow people to chat with others who have similar experiences, It is always important not to give away any personal information (like bank account details). Communities include:
  3. Use social media to make connections. Social media can have a negative impact on how people feel, but it can also be used to make meaningful connections. Facebook has lots of groups people can join to discuss similar interests.
  4. Create a list of activities you can do alone. Using the time you spend by yourself to create something positive will help with feelings of loneliness. You could try crocheting, painting, watching films, or writing, to detract from loneliness.
  5. Find an exercise suitable for you. You don’t have to do a full body workout, but exercise and physical activity can have a positive impact on your mood and release endorphins, which are happy hormones. If you can step outside for a walk, that might be an easy way to get some physical activity. Alternatively something like a stepper might be of use. And there are also a variety of online resources to help with workouts, such as:
  6. Practise mindfulness. It sounds like the last thing you might want to do, but learning to be on your own and enjoying your own company will make you feel less lonely when you can’t be around other people. Mind has more information.
  7. Consider a pet. It won’t be for everyone, but animals carry a lot of benefits and can help with feelings of loneliness. The unconditional love they provide can be a great comfort when you’re feeling low.

Other tips for dealing with feelings of loneliness

  1. Try to open up to people if you can. If there are people (friends or family) you could speak to, it’s important to let them know how you’re feeling. They make be able to help, or re-arrange their schedules to speak on the phone more often.
  2. Look after yourself physically. Make sure you eat regularly and healthily as diet makes a big impact to our moods. Try to get enough sleep and a good quality of sleep.
  3. Get some air. Having some fresh air and seeing some nature can help with wellbeing.
  4. Accept that it is only temporary. Understanding that loneliness is a temporary feeling and that you won’t always feel that way can be helpful to your outlook.

Useful resources for support:

Mind

Ageuk

Redcross

Contact the Elderly

Friends of the elderly

The Silver Line

*Information sourced from mind.org

Here's the information that you need to know about who we are and the other companies that we work with in order to provide our products and services.

Who are SunLife and who provides the SunLife Guaranteed Over 50 Plans?

SunLife Limited distributes financial products and services , registered office: 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG, United Kingdom (registered in England and Wales, no. 05460862). SunLife Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 769427).

Phoenix Life Limited trades as SunLife and is the provider of the SunLife Guaranteed Over 50 Plan life insurance policies. Phoenix Life Limited’s registered office is at 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG, United Kingdom (registered in England and Wales, no. 1016269).

Who provides the Funeral Benefit Option?

If you choose to add Funeral Benefit Option to your Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services, registered office: 4 King Edwards Court, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP (registered in England and Wales, No. 00041598). Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services, registered office: 4 King Edwards Court, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP (registered in England and Wales, No. 00041598). Dignity Funerals is not authorised or regulated for this activity by either the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority. Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

The life insurance policy that pays for your funeral will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife.

Who provides SunLife Pet Insurance

SunLife Pet Insurance is arranged and administered by BDML Connect Limited. BDML Connect Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 309140). Registered in England and Wales Number 02785540. Registered Office: 45 Westerham Road, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 2QB.

Who provides SunLife Home Insurance

SunLife Home Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.

Who provides SunLife Car Insurance

SunLife Car Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.