Community Involvement and Activity
Information on how older men and women can overcome loneliness and enjoy life, building new friendships and hobbies.
As people grow older they can become increasingly vulnerable to loneliness. This not only stops them enjoying life but can also have a serious effect on their health.
This might be due to living alone, perhaps as a result of bereavement or one’s family moving away. However there can be many other causes. For example, having few friendships or hobbies, or feeling adrift following retirement.
The scale of the problem is highlighted by the statistic that in England 51% of over 75s live alone. 5 million older people say the television is their main form of company.
The problem can be exacerbated by people being reluctant to ask for help. Furthermore, while getting involved with a new activity can give you a fresh sense of purpose, it is still easy to feel tentative about taking that first step and meeting new people.
Get passionate about a new activity
One way to overcome your feelings of trepidation is to become involved with a cause you feel passionate about! What was it that inspired you to become a vegetarian or vegan? Are you willing to use the strength of your beliefs to help support those charities that promote these diets? For example, could you be a school speaker, a fundraiser or a regular letter writer to local newspapers? There are many roles out there and all of the charities listed below would be delighted to hear from you.
- Vegetarian for Life – http://www.vegetarianforlife.org.uk/friends
- Viva! – http://www.viva.org.uk/get-involved
- The Vegan Society – http://www.vegansociety.com/take-action
- The Vegetarian Society – https://www.vegsoc.org/getactive
It’s good to talk!
Chatting with a friend or relative over the phone can be the next best thing to being with them. Alternatively, if you would feel more comfortable talking confidentially about a particular issue to someone who doesn’t know you, then you can call the free Silver Line. This is a helpline that was established by Esther Rantzen in 2012 and its number is 0800 4 70 80 90.
There is also:
- Independent Age on 0800 319 6789
- Age UK on 0800 169 6565
- Friends of the Elderly on 0207 259 0154 – to receive a weekly or fortnightly friendship call from a volunteer who enjoys talking to older people.
A good way to keep in touch with friends and family who may live far away is by using a personal computer or tablet (hand held computer). If you find this technology bewildering then help is at hand. Many libraries and community centres often hold regular training courses for older people to learn basic computer skills.
Computers and tablets enable you to share emails and photos with family and friends. You can also have free video chats using services such as Skype, Face Time or Viber, and make new online ‘friends’ or reconnect with old friends with social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, and also website forums.
They can also be the ideal way to find local groups and clubs that share your interests and hobbies. For example, bridge, walking, knitting or even quiz nights! It might even encourage you to find out more about a wide range of new interests through groups such as the University of the 3rd Age.
On the move
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. Bus travel is free for over-60s across the UK. And for longer distances, train and coach travel can be cheap too, especially if you book in advance online and use a senior rail card.
If you have mobility problems or live in a rural area with poor transport services, the Royal Voluntary Service can help connect you with volunteers who provide free transport. There are also often other community groups who can help with transport – why not use your new techie skills to find them!
Many surveys have shown that helping others in your community can give you a great feeling of satisfaction and an energising sense of purpose. Why not use the knowledge and experience you’ve gained over a lifetime to give something back to your community?
There are so many volunteering opportunities that relish the qualities and skills of older people – such as patience, experience and calmness. Just some examples are helping in a local charity shop or hospital, the Citizens Advice Bureau and school reading programmes.
What are we going to do about men?
It is a well-known fact that men can be particularly bad at seeking help or beginning new activities if they find themselves becoming isolated and lonely. Often this is after retiring when they find that most of their friends were actually their work colleagues. They may also struggle to fill their expanded spare time with new activities.
A Men’s Shed is a larger version of the typical man’s shed in the garden – a place where he feels at home and pursues practical interests with a sense of ‘being in charge’. A Men’s Shed offers this to a group of men. They can share the tools and resources they need to work on projects of their own choosing, at their own pace, and in a friendly venue. Basically, they are places of skill-sharing and informal learning and are somewhere that men can come together to work on projects that interest them.
A Shed’s activities will usually involve making or mending in wood (e.g. carpentry, joinery, turning, carving) but may include metalworking (milling, sheet metal, welding) bike repair, gardening, electronics, tool renovation and even boat renovation.