Dr Sue Ferguson
Following submission of my piece on Overcoming Loneliness, in the Seniors Section of the 2020 April Issue, a lot has changed. Now as seniors, we have to be extra careful about social distancing. I’d rather call it physical distancing from others, as it’s more important than ever to try to keep socially connected. If you’re looking for ideas for how to keep up your social connections, and possibly even build them during this time of COVID-19 (and why this is so important for your own mental and physical health too), then have a look at this great piece in The Conversation.
From time to time, many of us can feel a bit lonely. For some, it is just a brief feeling. For others, it is long-lasting and distressing. Loneliness is not just about being alone – we can also feel lonely in a crowd. Loneliness is a feeling we get when we are not as meaningfully connected to others as we wish. Loneliness can contribute to depression, but also to poor physical health outcomes.
What can we do if we feel lonely?
If you do have fewer friends then you would like, try joining a group related to one of your hobbies. Perhaps a seniors group, or volunteer for a local organisation. If you are already in a group, ask someone from the group if they would like to have a coffee after the meeting?
What if you have friends, but not really close friends who you can have deep conversations with and rely on to help you? You could ring one of your friends and suggest getting together for a one-on-one chat, and turn the conversation to something important to you that you think would interest them as well. Try this with several friends. Sometimes, however, we actually do have close friends and family, but perhaps because we are feeling a bit down, we still feel alone. If this might be the case for you, then talk to your GP and ask about a referral to a psychologist.
There is also some interesting research being conducted locally on improving social participation in older adults, at the Centre for Emotional Health at Macquarie University. So another way to get some free help is to contact the research coordinator on (02) 9850 8715 or SPAA@mq.edu.au
Unlike William Wordsworth, you don’t have to ‘wander lonely as a cloud!’