Most of us will feel lonely at some point in our lives. It might happen because of a job change, the loss of a relationship, illness, or moving house. In most cases it will pass.
But for some people, particularly in later life, loneliness can seriously affect their wellbeing. Research shows that isolation can be as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, while Age UK suggests more than a million older people go for a month without speaking to anyone.
Strong social networks can reduce the risk of mortality and developing certain diseases, including dementia, and help people recover when they fall ill. We’ve put together a few ways for people of any age to enable someone older who is feeling alone to feel useful and appreciated.
PUT THE KETTLE ON
Ask someone to pop over for tea. If you can get out and about, head to the Chattie Cafe or the Waterside MeetUp for a chat and a cuppa. If you’re feeling energetic, there’s high tea, hand jives and singing at The Glamour Club. For older individuals, get in touch with Re-engage (formerly Contact the Elderly). They hold regular free Sunday afternoon tea parties in Worthing, Lancing and Shoreham for anyone over 75 who lives alone, and would love to hear from you if you’d like to help out.
If you are housebound, try Age UK’s Call In Time initiative, Independent Age or Friends of the Elderly, who all offer weekly or fortnightly friendship calls or visits from volunteers. They’d love to hear from anyone young or old who would be interested in volunteering to be a befriender.
The more tech savvy could log on to online forum gransnet.com. If you don’t know your cookies from your spam, many local libraries offer training and support for people to get to grips with computers.
There are lots of local intergenerational groups, from board game nights at View Cafe Bar or Bar Orange to beach cleans to bat hunts. There’s so much more out there for older people than bingo and bridge; check out our comprehensive listings to find something that appeals to you.
The Royal Voluntary Service can put you in touch with people who provide free transport for older people who have mobility issues.
Older people have a lifetime of experience to share with others. Whether it’s community gardening, reading in schools, helping in the local hospital or dog walking, there are endless volunteering opportunities listed in Here & Now that demand the skills, patience and knowledge of older people. You’ll get lots back in return, and hopefully make new friends too.
Don’t stop learning – over in Lancing, Chesham House runs a programme of social activities for older people including First Time for Everything, a project set up by the Royal Voluntary Service Prudential UK, to offer older people the chance to try a new activity for free in a friendly and welcoming environment.
The University of the Third Age (U3A) has local branches in both Worthing and Shoreham and Southwick, run by volunteers to promote lifelong learning. There are over 70 groups covering everything from languages to Tai Chi to walking, so whatever your interests there’s bound to be something to appeal to you – and on the off chance there isn’t you can always start a group!
Worthing U3A chairwoman, Veronica Cringle explains, “The Worthing U3A is an informal, co-operative, run by our members for our members. We embrace everyone from all backgrounds, religions and cultures: the only provision is that they are retired, semi-retired or approaching retirement.
“Some of our members live alone, and U3A is motivational in helping them to forge new friendships. All in all, U3A is a great way
to keep active mentally, socially and physically. No qualifications needed!”
By Zoe Rhodes
For more information, get in touch:
Chattie Cafe E/other Thu. 6pm.Maybridge Keystone Centre.
Waterside MeetUp (SHM) E/Wed. 11am. The Waterside (SHM).
Julia Rivas, area co-ordinator for Re-engage 01273 805451
Adur & Worthing Voluntary Community Transport 01903 851558
Chesham House 01903 854640
Worthing U3A worthingu3a.org.uk or 01903 694259
The Glamour Club 07861715918