Coping with Loneliness

Coping with Loneliness

Loneliness and social isolation are not the same as being alone or experiencing solitude. Everyone is alone from time to time. Some people choose to spend a great deal of time in solitude – they enjoy their own company and may wish to socially interact with others only on an occasional basis. Other people enjoy companionship and prefer daily contact with friends, family, and others. Being alone is often a matter of conscious choice and preference.

In contrast, loneliness often feels as if it is not a choice, but a subjective feeling caused by dissatisfaction with social relationships. Loneliness is often accompanied by feelings of sadness, helplessness, and depression. A passive sate, it can often be overcome by action. The following steps can help seniors overcome feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

Recognize lonesome feelings and express them.

The first step to addressing loneliness is naming it. This sounds simple, but often it is difficult for people to admit or recognize that they are feeling lonesome. Talk about feelings, write in a journal, or write a letter to a fictitious friend to help clarify feelings.

Reach out across distance and time.

Sometimes seniors may feel that all of their friends and family are gone, when in fact they just no longer live nearby. Social interaction does not need to be face to face to be meaningful. Phone calls and writing letters and e-mail provide good alternatives of communication with others. The notion that too much time has passed to contact a distant relative, old friend, or other previous relationship may be another obstacle for seniors to overcome. Once contact is made, most people are delighted and flattered to be remembered.

Pursue an activity or hobby.

Sometimes seniors think they are too old to take up something new, but the truth is that no one is too old to learn. Pursuing an old or new hobby or activity is a natural way for seniors to meet others with similar interests.

Join a group.

There are thousands of different types of groups and volunteer opportunities available for people of all abilities and interests. Religious, civic, environmental, political, and social groups abound and can be readily found though such sources as Area Agencies on Aging, senior centers, the newspaper, bulletin boards, and the internet.

Help others.

Volunteering to serve others is an excellent antidote to loneliness. It provides not only meaningful social interaction, but also self-esteem and confidence.

 Compiled by Janice Blanchard, 2004

The information above is reprinted from Working with Seniors: Health, Financial and Social Issues with permission from Society of Certified Senior Advisors® . Copyright © 2009. All rights reserved.