Anyone can feel lonely, but there are things that can increase your risk, like a big life change or losing a loved one.
Older adults are at risk for loneliness for a few reasons. They are more likely to live alone. They may have mobility issues that make it hard to leave the house. And vision and hearing problems can increase feelings of isolation.
If you do feel lonely, you may not know how to find help. But it’s important to connect with other people because loneliness may be bad for your health. It has been linked to higher rates of depression and heart disease. It may even weaken the immune system.
Find new ways to connect
You can meet other people even if leaving home is a challenge. Here are a few ideas to help you feel less lonely.
- Call and text with friends and loved ones.
- Chat from your laptop, tablet or smartphone with an app like Facetime or Skype.
- Play an instrument for friends or read a bedtime story to a child using video chat.
- Connect with old friends and share pictures over sites like Facebook or Instagram.
- Mail cards or handwritten letters to loved ones.
- Send pictures and share stories over email.
- Watch virtual programming from places like museums, places of worship and community centers.
- Plan virtual events like book clubs, outings and dance parties with family and friends.
- Take up a new hobby like yoga, meditation or learning a new language through free apps.
Play online games like word scramble and cards.
Meet new people
Friends can cheer you on and make every day brighter. It’s not always easy to meet new people, but you can do it!
What activities could I try?
- Take classes at a local community center.
- Join a club for a hobby you like such as crafting, golfing or bridge.
- Get involved in community theater.
- Attend local functions or sporting events.
How do I make friends once I’m there?
- Suggest getting together instead of waiting to be invited.
- Let friendships grow over time. Some relationships may develop more than others.
- Help overcome shyness or anxiety with counseling or a public speaking workshop.
Consider new housing
There are many types of housing. Some can even help you be more social. Here are options for people who do well on their own and for people who need care.
If you can live on your own, here are a few options:
- Staying in your own home. There are things you can do to make your home safer as you age.
- Planned adult communities. Buy a home in a community that offers senior-focused services and events.
- Subsidized housing. Public housing can be a great way to know your neighbors. You will have to meet certain income requirements and there may be a waiting list.
- Shared housing. If you like having other people around, consider getting a roommate or two.
If you need help with daily living, here are a few options:
- Assisted living facility. You can get services such as medication and meal reminders, some assistance with daily needs and access to certain medical services.
- Board and care, personal care or residential care. Regulations vary by state, but these facilities usually provide meals plus personal care.
- Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). CCRCs usually have three levels of care at one location: independent living, assisted living and nursing home care.
If you need 24-hour care, here are a few options:
- Subacute care. This is usually for temporary nursing care, such as rehab from a recent surgery, fall or stroke, so it’s important to select a facility equipped for your needs.
- Skilled care. These licensed facilities offer 24-hour nursing supervision and care, physical and mental rehabilitation and help with personal care.
- Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Some facilities will have special programs or a memory care unit with staff trained to care for the needs of people with dementia.
The first step to getting around is having transportation. Here are a few places to start:
Your personal network
Start close to home.
- Your family or friends may be able to help drive you places.
- Your healthcare provider may offer transportation to and from appointments.
- Your place of worship may be able to help get you to and from services.
Your community network
Look into carpools, ridesharing, paratransit services and other public transportation options.
Questions you many want to ask include:
- How far can you take me?
- Is the cost per ride or round-trip?
- Do I need to apply to qualify for this service?
- Do I need to pre-arrange for a ride?
- Can I make reservations in advance for standing appointments?
- Are other people picked up during my ride?
- Can the driver help me to the vehicle?
That may seem like a lot of questions, but don’t worry. Most ridesharing and transportation companies do a great job of making it easy for you to use them.
Ask for help
Here are some resources that may be able to help you be more social and feel less lonely.
- Medical insurance. Some health plans include benefits that may provide eligible members with medical transportation services. Call the number on the back of your medical insurance ID card to see what options you may have.
- findhelp. This resource provides a national social care network whose mission is to connect people to the help they need with dignity and ease. For more information, visit www.findhelp.org
- Eldercare Area Agencies on Aging. Find trustworthy, local support and services to help with needs like transportation, home care, meals and caregiver training at www.eldercare.acl.gov
- Far From Alone. Find loneliness resources as well as help with finances, food, medical care and more at www.farfromalone.com
- 211 Helpline Center. Dial 211 from any phone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can get community information and referrals to social services for everyday needs and in times of crisis, including transportation challenges. You can also visit www.211.org
- Mental Health America. This community-based nonprofit provides local and online support groups, community events, volunteer opportunities and more at www.mhanational.org
1. “Loneliness and Social Isolation—Tips for Staying Connected,” National Institute on Aging, last accessed January 9, 2023, www.nia.nih.gov/health/loneliness-and-social-isolation-tips-staying-connected.