Loneliness is a big issue at all levels of modern society, with various charities trying to tackle this social issue.
The act of finishing employment and transitioning into retirement can leave a big void in our lives. Especially if we have roles that come with status or a sense of identity.
Retirement takes us away from this identity and the important rituals and routine of work which leads to social interaction.
New research has identified some significant results around how the over-65’s feel about loneliness. Commissioned by retirement housebuilder McCarthy & Stone, the survey spoke to 1,000 over 65’s across the UK. They found that 53% of over 65’s often feel lonely. Despite this large number of older people feeling lonely, 68% chose not to tell friends or family about these feelings.
In an attempt to avoid loneliness, 7 in 10 over 65’s have created Facebook profiles so they can communicate with family and friends. The research also found that 35% of over 65’s in Britain go for up to four days at a time without speaking to family.
But what causes these feelings of loneliness as we get older?
According to the research, common causes of loneliness in retirement include the loss of a career and its associated identity, family relocation, and the death of loved ones. Even though 81% of those surveyed said they have someone to turn to if they feel lonely, 37% decided on keeping their feelings from their family, as they see it as being a burden.
“It would be easy to get caught up in our daily lives and to see the loneliness epidemic as someone else’s problem, but we all have a responsibility to the older people living in our communities.” “It is important to realise that small everyday actions can actually be game changers. It doesn’t take a massive time commitment to help older people feel far less isolated – it can just take one person, one moment, one action.” “We are urging everyone to be aware of the older people living around them, and to get a little more involved in their neighbourhood from time to time.” “An impromptu chat with those living next door, being invited round for dinner once in a while, and even someone offering to put your bins out for the weekly collection are among the many thoughtful actions that can make all the difference when you’re feeling alone.”
Spokesperson for McCarthy & Stone, which carried out the study, said:
Paula Radcliffe MBE is a brand ambassador for McCarthy and Stone’s #takesone2018 campaign, aimed at getting people to pledge to undertake one small action to help combat loneliness in the older generation. She said: “I pledge to make that extra effort every day to brighten an older person’s day. Whether it be as simple as a smile or taking a minute to chat to them about the weather – all these gestures add up especially to someone who might be lonely. One day this will be us too, benefiting from the thoughtfulness of others”.
There are several ways to combat loneliness in retirement. Connecting with other people is the main step. This means being proactive and seeking out opportunities to spend time with others. There are numerous opportunities for retirees to socialise with others who have shared interests; everything from adult education classes to volunteering opportunities and exercise groups.
In fact a holiday consultant I know recently setup a Travel Companions Group on meetups.com aimed at people who would love to holiday but are afraid to go alone.
The transition from work to retirement can often leave us feeling without purpose. Finding new purpose in life is key to a successful retirement and at Juniper Wealth Management we actively encourage clients to consider what they are retiring to rather than what they are retiring from.
Finding purpose could come from working with a life coach, carrying out a daily journaling practice, or even turning a hobby into an entrepreneurial venture.
Another approach to tackling loneliness in retirement is to consider living with others. Taking in a lodger, living in shared housing or moving into a retirement community are all options to consider.
If you’re feeling lonely in retirement, talk to someone about it. Friends and family won’t feel like you are a burden if you raise this important issue. It always helps to talk.