If there is one thing we all refuse to admit, it is when we feel lonely. I think it is because many have this thinking that lonely people have got no friends, which I totally disagree with. I admit, there are times that I feel a slight pang of loneliness even while I am with friends and family and even more so when I am alone. This became even more evident when I finally chose to retire, seeing that I no longer encounter my workmates for several hours each day and because of that, I have less people to spend time with.
Unfortunately, I am not the only “lonely retiree”;
research shows that loneliness is prevalent among people of retirement age. To be precise, The Silver Line, which is a helpline established by BBC presenter Esther Rantzen, conducted a survey back in 2013 and discovered that as much as 2.5 million older people in Britain consider themselves lonely and that 84 percent of them have some difficulty admitting it. And a possible cause of this is the closure of day centers and community services due to government cuts.
When we decided to retire, we knew that we would have lots of spare time in our hands. Unfortunately, this also means that we will also face the problem of what to do with it, especially when bouts of loneliness strike. This spare time can actually be a tool to fight against loneliness. If you cannot fathom how, here are some ideas for you, which I also personally do myself:
- Organise a group meeting. One thing I’ve noticed when I drop by the nearby pubs or restaurants at any given time is that there are people my age, or even older, who are huddled together in a group. Oftentimes, I even see them at the same table at the same time of day several times a week that they have became patrons and servers already know them by names and their usual orders. You can get together with some of your friends and allot a day or two every week to catch up.
- Help around in your community. Most communities have programs and activities lined up to help the needy and to do that, they will need all the help they can get. By participating in one of those programs, you would be a big help to them. Even something as simple as distributing food for the potluck or decorating the hall for an event will be of big help. You will also get to meet new people that way.
- Try engaging in small talk. We all warned our kids and grand kids about not talking to strangers for fear of their safety. Since we are old enough to not be snatched off, talking to strangers is actually a good way to fend off loneliness. Even a simple greeting will go a long way in brightening up both of your days. How long have you been purchasing stuff from that shopkeeper at the corner shop without talking to him or her? Now is the time to change that.
- Volunteer at the charity shops. Not a lot of people know that volunteers mostly run the charity shops found at the high streets. If you happen to frequent those shops, chances are you would notice that there are people manning them that are about our age. You can actually do the same thing by asking around and arrange what date/s will be best for you; if you can only volunteer your time for a single day then that’s not a problem. An additional perk is that you may be able to get first pickings of the stuff before they are put on display. [Related article: Volunteering After 50: Retiring Into Action]
- Be productive. Now is the time for you to learn that hobby you have always wanted to learn but did not have the time to do so in the past. Tutorial videos are abundant and you can learn how to knit a jumper or do basic carpentry work even while lying in bed. While you may not be in the company of other people as you do these things, engaging in them will keep your mind off of feeling lonely. You also get the chance to reinvent yourself and discover a talent you never knew you had.
Of course, there are other ways to overcome loneliness when it slowly creeps up on you. What I mentioned are some of the things I usually do to fight it. But I have learned that the best way to fend off loneliness is to surround yourself with your loved ones. Even if most of the time it is just the missus and I at our home, we make it a point to have a weekly family gathering even if it just to have a chat or eat out. Social media, particularly through Facebook, and video calls are also a great help since we get to see them, especially the grand kids, even if they are away.
The time we gained upon retirement should not be used to dwell on feeling lonely but instead, we should use it to improve our relationships with other people and even ourselves. That way, loneliness will no longer feel like a cloud hanging above you but will become just a passing thought that can be easily forgotten, or even never know at all.
Like many people around my age we are redefining what retirement is all about. Our generation is not satisfied with just sitting around waiting for time to pass. We’re breaking the rules and making our latter years mean something.
Latest posts by Harry Parker (see all)
- The Business of Being Charming: Service Design for Customer Delight - January 15, 2016
- Older Entrepreneurs, New Habits: Conditioning for Success - November 12, 2015
- Don’t Let Innovation Intimidate You - November 5, 2015