Anybody of any age can be lonely. Loneliness can have a huge impact on your health and it can be very difficult to ask for help or support. The information below could help you or someone you know - don't be afraid to let someone know how you are feeling.
As you get older you can be more vulnerable to loneliness for lots of reasons:
- Losing the social support of work.
- Family growing up and moving away.
- Bereavement or loss of friends or loved ones.
- Being less mobile or less confident out and about.
Loneliness and social isolation can have serious effects on your health. Being able to share your news with someone, tell them how you are feeling or recount stories from the past is very important in keeping you well in body and mind.
People who are lonely might:
- Feel sad or down.
- Not enjoy their usual hobbies or activities as much.
- Have changes in appetite – eating more or less.
- Start to feel nervous or worried about going out or meeting new people.
If you have always been surrounded by family and friends it can be difficult to know how to start socialising or meeting people – this is normal. Meeting new people can be daunting, but it does get easier with practice.
What can I do?
Try to smile and say hello - in the shop, or the GP surgery, or to your neighbours – practicing can help if you feel shy and can boost your self-esteem.
If you are going somewhere new try to introduce yourself – if people know you are new or unsure they’re usually quite happy to introduce you to others, and are happy to see a new face!
Some people find chatting to people over the phone, or on the internet, a good way to get started – reconnect with old friends or family who have moved away through Facebook, Skype or Friends Reunited or call and join a talking network for social support and to share life experiences.
Others might use a local Befriending scheme or go to local events to meet people in their community – keep an eye out in local shops or the newspaper for notices.
Others may join an evening class to learn a new skill and meet people with similar interests – there is a 50% discount for people over 60.
Some people might prefer to volunteer. Helping others can be a great boost to your mental health, and a brilliant way to meet new people. There are lots of different opportunities to volunteer in Shetland and local halls often look for new members or helpers – your skills could be very useful in your community!