The Reality of Loneliness
As we go about our lives, it can be difficult to understand the struggles of those who feel alone. Social isolation is a widespread problem, especially amongst the elderly; and this has only worsened as the Coronavirus pandemic has kept each of us apart from friends, family and loved ones.
According to Age UK, the total number of over-50s who feel lonely in their day-to-day life is set to reach 2 million by 2025. In 2017 this figure was only 1.4 million, meaning loneliness amongst this group has almost doubled in 10 years.
These statistics are upsetting to read, but it doesn’t mean all hope is lost! Each of us can do our part to ensure the elders in our lives aren’t lonely; and this is especially important as the winter season approaches.
Five Ways to Keep Them Connected This Winter:
1) Give Your Time to Help Others
Many people across the UK are experiencing loneliness at the moment, especially those with no friends or family to speak to regularly. At a time like this, it’s especially important that even if they can’t talk to loved ones, they can still talk to someone.
It’s crucial that we all work together to solve this problem, so if you have some spare time, why not get in involved with something 'Check in and Chat'? This is a free scheme, where volunteers will call an isolated older person just to have a chat. There are also similar services offered across the UK, with Age UK's telephone friendship calls and The Silver Line's elderly helpline providing help to lonely seniors as well.
The more people who volunteer for schemes like this, the more older people can be helped to escape the reality of loneliness. As they say, what goes around comes around, and if you help others’ lonely loved ones this winter then someone may just be there to help yours down the line too.
We’re all in this together, after all.
2. Discover New Ways to Keep in Touch
Being apart may be tough, but it’s a great chance to find some new ways to connect with loved ones!
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the popularity of video calling has increased tremendously. According to CNBC, Zoom video (a video conferencing platform) saw its user base go from 10 million users in December 2019 to 200 million users in March 2020 alone.
If your elderly loved ones are more tech savvy, they can access free video calling software such as Zoom or Skype using their computer or laptop right away. They can even use their smartphone!
However, it’s especially hard to help some older people stay connected, even with this sort of technology out there. Some may not have the confidence to use new technology to stay in touch, whilst others may not even have a home internet connection at all.
For many, a more specialised solution was needed, and thousands of people have gravitated towards devices tailored for the elderly, such as the GrandPad. This is a tablet specially designed around the needs of older adults. It reconnects people with loved ones and includes unlimited 2-way video calling, 4G internet (so they don't need WIFI), music streaming, 24/7 personalised support & more.
Another great option is a simple smartphone, boasting all the features of a standard smartphone, but with a more user-friendly and simplistic layout. It can be difficult to get started with smartphones as an elderly user if you're not too confident, so this device offers simple walkthroughs and allows remote access by friends/family to add contacts and change settings for the user, making life a little bit easier.
There are lots of solutions to stay connected, even when you may feel far apart!
GrandPad: Tablet for Elderly
Simple Smartphone for Elderly
3. Get to Know Your Neighbours
More and more people around the world have been coming together in recent months to help each other out. With the slight easing of lockdown in some areas, getting to know the neighbours is a great way to stay social in the local community, and have a good support network around older loved ones.
You can encourage your elderly relative to get in touch with their neighbours themselves if they aren’t already, or perhaps do it for them. This could be something simple, like inviting them for a cup of tea in the garden, or dropping off some shopping for one another.
As long as they’re practicing safe social distancing, wearing a mask when they can, and sticking to regular handwashing as per government advice, your older loved ones will be able to stay in touch with their neighbours, and maybe even make some new friends!
Just remember to follow the guidance:
4. Activities & Groups
One way that elders are staying connected and socially active today is by joining or attending local clubs, groups, or classes. Getting your older loved one involved in one of these groups is a great way to help them make friends with people their age, who may share similar hobbies and interests, or be going through the same struggles.
Groups like Men’s Sheds or The Women’s Institute provide fantastic local social groups and activities to get involved in. During these trying times, it may seem unsafe to take part in things like this. However, these clubs know that elders are more at risk than other age groups, and are taking much stricter measures to ensure members’ safety.
As well as this, many organisations such as this are offering online group activities using platforms such as Zoom. One example is Silver Sunday, who list some great online activities on their activity calendar. Local places of worship are often streaming their services online now too, so using a device such as the GrandPad can let anyone watch their regular worship service remotely, even if they can't attend in person at the moment.
Another idea is to go on a virtual museum tour with your loved ones! Google Arts and Culture is a great example of this, as they have mapped many of the world’s most famous museums, allowing them to enjoy visiting from the comfort of their own home. You could have a phone call whilst doing this, and virtually explore a museum together (at least until you’re allowed to explore them for real again!).
5. Spend Time With Them Safely
Though lockdown rules in the UK have eased off in some areas, it’s still important to remain vigilant. However, with the right precautions in place, it can be a good time to finally meet up with an older loved one. Strict social distancing policies in many establishments, especially in chain restaurants and cafes for example, means that it can be safer in a lot of circumstances to meet an older relative for coffee perhaps, or share a meal at their favourite restaurant.
Of course, we cannot stress this enough, but safety is paramount. Always make sure to follow the government guidance for your area, and wear a mask when outdoors if you can. If you’re going to meet someone in a busier public place, try to sit as far apart from other customers as you can to avoid any risk of exposure. It can also be a good idea to meet early in the morning or at non-peak times to avoid larger crowds.
Local parks or walking trails can also be a great way to meet up in real life with your loved one, giving you a chance to get outdoors, whilst staying out of the way of busier areas in your town or city.
If your area is in a local lockdown or you’re in a particularly vulnerable group then going outdoors to meet may not be an option at all. In this case, maybe you could have a coffee together over video chat, or watch your favourite TV show whilst you talk on the phone?
There are lots of ways to spend time safely with your older loved ones, so think outside the box!
Beating elderly loneliness is a huge challenge, especially during these difficult times. However, you’re not alone in facing this problem, and there is support out there to help.
Nobody should be alone in beating loneliness, and that’s why we believe the solution boils down to one simple thing:
Keeping them connected.
You can keep your elders connected in all sorts of ways; from a simple letter, to a video call with them each week (or even every day!). We hope the ideas in this list have given you some new ways to keep them connected this winter, but the most important thing is to do what is best for you and your loved ones, and stay safe no matter what.
Are you worried your loved one may feel lonely this winter?
Get in touch with our friendly team of experts, who can help to find you a perfect device to keep them connected this winter!
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