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Older people are especially vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation - and it can have a serious effect on health. But there are ways to overcome loneliness, even if you live alone and find it hard to get out.

People can become socially isolated for a variety of reasons, such as getting older or weaker, no longer being the hub of their family, leaving the workplace, the deaths of spouses and friends, or through disability or illness.

Whatever the cause, it's shockingly easy to be left feeling alone and vulnerable, which can lead to depression and a serious decline in physical health and wellbeing.

Someone who's lonely probably also finds it hard to reach out. There's a stigma surrounding loneliness, and older people tend not to ask for help because they have too much pride.

It's important to remember loneliness can - and does - affect anyone, of any age.

Feeling lonely? These organisations can help you

Elder Tree Befriending

Elder Tree Befriending is a local charity working in close partnership with Plymouth City Council and Livewell Southwest. The main aim is to prevent loneliness and support socially isolated and vulnerable older people to continue to live independently in their own homes.

Elder Tree Logo

Age UK Plymouth

Age UK Plymouth are working with Livewell Southwest helping patients that have been discharged from Mount Gould Hospital. They can provide phone call support for the first six weeks and have a wider phone-a-friend service. 

Age UK Plymouth Logo

Time Bank

Time Bank is a reciprocal exchange of time and skills so, whenever you give your time to help others you get time back to ask for something you need from any Time Bank member. They support and manage a network of Time Bank Hubs, bringing people together to make friendships and share their time and skills with others. The role is to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to get involved in their community safely, to do this they operate an informal volunteering scheme that enables people to give an hour of their time and to get an hour back to ask for something they want or need.

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Red Cross

The Red Cross Connecting Communities Service includes meeting new friends, connecting with local activities and services, rediscovering interests and finding new ones, building confidence. They can also help the older population to get online.

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Plymouth Argyle

Plymouth Argyle have received funding to support anyone in the local community who is at risk of loneliness (not just Argyle supporters).

Plymouth Argyle Logo

The Box

The Box are carrying out activities including use of their extensive archives collection to help older people, stimulating their memories and helping reduce loneliness.

The Box Logo

St Luke's Compassionate Communities and Friends

St Luke's Compassionate Communities and Friends reaches out to others to not only reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, but it also helps meet the needs of those who wish to be cared for in place of choice and stay within their communities. Whether you are a neighbour, friend, colleague or family member, we all have a part to play in helping each other.

St Luke's Hospice Logo

Plymouth Hope

Plymouth Hope is a Devon based charity which aims to promote social inclusion by supporting people who may otherwise have become socially excluded. This includes asylum seekers and refugees in Plymouth, with a range of programmes with the aims to improve integration, improve physical wellbeing, improve confidence and reduce isolation.

Plymouth Hope Logo

View the social isolation and loneliness directory of local services and organisations

Here are ways for older people to connect with others, and feel useful and appreciated again.

Let's talk about loneliness

It's ok to feel lonely, particularly at a time like this. Don't suffer in silence, we can all help each other stay connected. Find out more and let's talk about loneliness.

Smile, even if it feels hard

Grab every chance to smile at others or begin a conversation - for instance, with the cashier at the shop or the person next to you in the GP waiting room.

If you're shy or not sure what to say, try asking people about themselves.

Invite friends for tea

If you're feeling down and alone, it's tempting to think nobody wants to visit you. But often friends, family and neighbours will appreciate receiving an invitation to come and spend some time with you.

Keep in touch by phone

Having a chat with a friend or relative over the phone can be the next best thing to being with them.

Learn to love computers

If your friends and family live far away, a good way to stay in touch, especially with grandchildren, is by using a personal computer or tablet (a handheld computer).

You can share emails and photos with family and friends, have free video chats using services or reconnect with old friends on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter and website forums.

A tablet computer can be especially useful if you can't get around very easily, as you can sit with it on your knee or close to hand and the screen is clear and bright.

A sponge-tip stylus pen or speech recognition may help if the touchscreen is difficult for arthritic hands or fingers with poor circulation.

Libraries and community centres often hold regular training courses for older people to learn basic computer skills - as well as being a good place to meet and spend time with others in their own right.

Local branches of Age UK run classes in computing to help older people get to grips with smartphones, tablet computers and email.

Get some tips and advice on how to become more confident using the internet, including how to access your GP surgery online and how to look for reliable online health information.

Get involved in local community activities

These will vary according to where you live, but the chances are you'll have access to a singing or walking group, book clubs, bridge, bingo, quiz nights and faith groups.

Fill your diary

It can help you feel less lonely if you plan the week ahead and put things in your diary to look forward to each day, such as a walk in the park or going to a local coffee shop, library, sports centre, cinema or museum.

Get out and about

Don't wait for people to come and see you - travel to visit them.

One advantage of being older is that public transport is better value. Local bus travel is free for older people across England.

The age at which you can apply for your free bus pass depends on when you were born and where you live.

Use this State Pension calculator to find out the exact date when you can apply for your free bus pass.

For longer distances, train and coach travel can be cheap, too, especially if you book in advance online and use a Senior Railcard.

Help others

Use the knowledge and experience you have gained over a lifetime to give something back to your community.

You'll get lots back in return, such as new skills and confidence - and, hopefully, some new friends, too.

There are endless volunteering opportunities that relish the qualities and skills of older people, such as patience, experience and calmness.

Lift Someone Out Of Loneliness Promotional Poster

This page is based on content that originated from GOV.UK (adapted)

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