Resources and Advice

Helping you and your loved ones live well in later life

Falls Risk Score logo

Are you or a loved one at risk of a fall?

Every 10 seconds, a loved one in the UK has a fall. Find out your risk score in 2 minutes.

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING

Recognising the signs of loneliness in the elderly

Download our Staying Connected guide to understand the symptoms of loneliness and address the causes.

June 14, 2023

Elderly man feeling alone

Loneliness is an issue that has become increasingly talked about, both by family members and their older loved ones. Whilst loneliness can affect anyone, regardless of background, gender or age, many older adults are particularly impacted by the issue.

Whether you are an older adult or a concerned family member, understanding and tackling loneliness can greatly improve wellbeing and health. 

We have produced this article, and the free Staying Connected guide that you can download, to help you recognise the signs of loneliness in older adults and support you with practical solutions.

Download free guide

 

What can cause feelings of loneliness?

Loneliness is a complex issue with no one-size-fits-all solution. As humans, we are social beings and feeling lonely is a natural emotion. For many people, this feeling might pass with time. However, for older adults, loneliness may be more challenging for a variety of reasons.

According to studies by Age UK, 1.9 million older people feel ignored or invisible, and 18% said they feel lonely always or often.


Several factors commonly contribute to loneliness in the elderly. By understanding these underlying causes, we can better address the issue. Here are some common factors:

  1. Loss of loved ones. Bereavement from the passing of friends, family members or a partner can lead to profound loneliness. If a spouse passes away, then you may find it difficult to adapt to living alone and will naturally miss the connection you had with your life partner.
  2. Limited mobility. As we get older, we may become less mobile. This can make it more difficult to get out-and-about. Ailments and health conditions that restrict mobility can limit our social lives, making us more dependent on others for social interactions.
  3. Changes in circumstances: Retirement, moving home or becoming a caregiver can disrupt our routines, social connections and friendship groups.
  4. Technology barriers. Whilst technology can help many people stay connected with loved ones, not everyone finds using a computer or other devices easy.
  5. Cost of living. Financial constraints can contribute to isolation and feeling lonely. Changes in circumstances may mean we can’t afford to travel or meet with friends as often as we used to.

Retired man reading a book 

Retirement leading to loneliness

A lot of people associate their workplace with a sense of purpose and community. Losing work-related stress can be a relief, but losing touch with work colleagues can remove a significant amount of social interaction from a routine.

Staying Connected guide

Our Staying Connected guide includes tips to cope with loneliness after retirement. Click here to download the Staying Connected guide for free.

Download free guide


How can you spot the signs of loneliness in the elderly?

Some people may feel comfortable being alone and not experience loneliness, even if they don’t have many social interactions. The critical factor is whether a person feels a sense of connection and fulfilment in their social and emotional life, be it alone or with others.

The signs of loneliness may be different for individuals, but there are common signs that a person may be experiencing feelings of isolation. Here are some key signs to look out for:

  1. Withdrawing from social events. A sudden decrease in social interactions and participating in activities they previously enjoyed may be a sign someone is experiencing loneliness.
  2. Changes in emotions. Mood swings, sadness, increased irritability or feelings of hopelessness are a sign that someone may be struggling with feeling alone.
  3. Physical signs. Loneliness can present itself in physical and behavioural signs, such as fatigue, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping or unexplained aches and pains.
  4. Neglecting physical care. Changes in personal hygiene or living conditions can be affected by loneliness.
  5. Loss of interest. Lack of motivation, disinterest in hobbies or a general sense of apathy.

Loneliness poses health risks as deadly as smoking up to 15 cigarettes daily and in older people is tied to symptoms such as pain, insomnia, depression, anxiety and shorter lifespan

US Surgeon General
May 2023

Elderly couple talking

Practical solutions to alleviate loneliness in the elderly

You will find different actions will help to alleviate the feelings of loneliness depending on your circumstances. We go into more detail in our Staying Connected guide and here are some practical solutions that can help older adults:

  • Join a support group online or face-to-face.
  • Stay in touch with friends and loved ones through video calls, social media, or emails.
  • Find out about home-based and community-based support available in your area.
  • Start a new hobby or volunteer for a cause you believe in.
  • Join a book club, yoga class or gym.
  • Join a befriending service. Age UK's Telephone Friendship Services will match you with a friendly volunteer for a weekly chat
  • Talk to friends or family about any overwhelming thoughts and feelings. If you feel too vulnerable or if you are alone, you can always talk to a trained specialist such as The Samaritans.

Coping with bereavement

Coping with bereavement can be extremely hard. Our Staying Connected guide some advice that may help. Click here to download the Staying Connected guide for free.

Download free guide 

The effect of loneliness on carers

It is true that loneliness can affect anyone, but family caregivers may feel more isolated due to prioritising their responsibilities. This can result in neglect of their own health needs and withdrawal from their favourite activities. This can lead to poor physical and mental health, financial strain, and reduced ability to provide effective care.

Here’s a few tips to ease the burden of caring:

  • Join a carer’s forum or social group.
  • Talk to friends and family about your additional caring responsibilities.
  • Join a befriending scheme that will offer support and companionship.
  • Acknowledge that you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.

Read more of our carer support articles, including the support available to you if you care for elderly parents and how to monitor elderly parents remotely at home.

Elderly couple walking

Supporting independence

Smart home monitoring devices including home sensors can provide you with peace of mind that your loved ones are OK when you cannot be with them. These can be combined with personal fall alarms and emergency alarms for the elderly so loved ones have a way to get help 24-hours a day.

Compare personal alarms


Download the Staying Connected guide

As we get older, we should be able to continue doing the things we love and living life the way we want to. Recognising and addressing loneliness in the elderly is an important part of being able to do this.

Download the Stay Connected guide

The Staying Connected guide provides information, resources, and support to help you overcome loneliness, build meaningful connections, and be your best in later life. It contain useful strategies and practical solutions to help you identify the underlying causes of loneliness and develop a plan to overcome it.

Download free guide

Independent living products brochure

Learn how personal alarms and home monitoring solutions can keep you or your loved ones safe and independent at home.

Download brochure

Ways to support independent living

Independent living products brochure

Learn how personal alarms and home monitoring solutions can keep you or your loved ones safe and independent at home.

Download brochure


What to read next

Lone tree on a hill
February 21, 2024

Supporting with elderly grief and loss

Losing someone close to you is difficult at any age, but as we get older, grief can affect us differently and can often be worse.

Elderly man dealing with stress
September 14, 2023

Tips for managing stress in the elderly

Stress can have a significant impact on physical and mental health. Read our tips to manage worry and distress.

Elderly playing brain games while sitting down
August 21, 2023

Top brain games for seniors

Keeping our minds active as we age is essential for cognitive health. This article will discuss the importance of mental activity for the elderly and highlight effective brain games.