The 2017 report from the Jo Cox Commission found that loneliness can be as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. So how can we help friends or family stay active in the community and fend off loneliness? Here are 4 suggestions from the team at Felgains.
1. Take in a rescue dog
Taking on the responsibility of a pet might sound stressful, but it doesn’t have to be, and dog ownership can bring a whole host of benefits that might not be immediately obvious. While boisterous puppies are probably out of the question for most, a small, slightly older dog could be a perfect companion.
Apart from being a good-natured, loyal, and affectionate friend, a dog can force its owner to get out and about at least once a day. It doesn’t have to be mile-long yomps in the rain, either. Many older dogs are happy with a sedate stroll to the local café.
And on top of the obvious benefits that come from gentle exercise and fresh air, dogs are often wonderful conversation starters. Dog owners are famed for being a friendly bunch who are always eager to chat about their hounds.
If the financial responsibility of dog ownership is a concern, charities such as the PDSA can help out with veterinary care if need be.
2. Join a club, society, or sports team
There are hundreds of day centres, lunch clubs and sport teams across the UK which are run specifically for older members. Whether it’s just a nice cup of tea and a chat or a competitive game of table tennis. Joining a group can be a great way of scheduling in regular social time, and can be something fixed to look forward to.
3. Embrace technology
Nothing beats talking face-to-face, but if loved ones live long-distance, video calling software can help overcome the miles. Programmes such as Skype and Facetime can provide a more personal experience than a simple phone call: you’ll be able to see each other properly, and as it’s via speakerphone, the whole family can crowd around the screen for a catch up.
If your loved one struggles with new technology or isn’t as comfortable using their home phone as they used to be, we offer a range of specialist phones, including models with photo buttons and extra-large digits.
4. Share your home
There’s no age-limit of having flatmates, and having company at home is something you think your friend or family member would enjoy, the answer doesn’t necessarily have to be a residential home. Many older people feel lonely following the death of a spouse, but are reluctant to leave the comfort and familiarity of their own home. One potential solution could be a home-sharing scheme.
Charities such as Novus Homeshare match young people looking for affordable accommodation with elderly home owners who would like company, as well as a helping hand with the household chores.
It doesn’t always work out, but when a good match is made, it can be incredibly rewarding for both parties.
If you have any ideas of your own, why not share them with the world? Tweet us @Felgains
And if you have a spare moment, you could really help to tackle loneliness by completing the BBC Loneliness Experiment. Even if you don’t feel lonely right now, or have never felt lonely, every completed response will help researchers access a fuller picture of what makes us feel lonely.