Over 60 and Lonely? Your Guide to Being Alone Yet Happy
In the United States, nearly 29% of the 46 million community-dwelling older adults live alone (Merck Manual). Of these, about 70% are women. Men are more likely to die first, and divorced or widowed men are more likely to remarry than their female counterparts.
Seniors over 60 end up alone for several reasons including, divorce, death of a spouse, or maybe they have lived alone for years by choice.
However, being alone and being lonely are two different things. Being alone is a physical state where you are separated from others, while being lonely is an emotional state where you feel isolated from others.
Just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you have to be lonely. Understanding what triggers your loneliness, staying healthy and active, and connecting with others are just a few of the things you can do to avoid feeling lonely.
Step 1: Identify Your Loneliness Triggers
Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but when that feeling doesn’t go away, it can become overwhelming. One of the most important ways to combat loneliness is to understand its causes.
When do you feel lonely?
Maybe you feel lonely on certain days like Sunday afternoons, or perhaps it’s during the holidays. Feeling lonely can also be triggered by dreary winter days or the anniversary of a sad time in your life.
Identify when you feel lonely and devise a plan to counteract that feeling the next time you’re in that situation. For example, if Sunday afternoons are a lonely time for you, find a place to volunteer after church. Helping others usually takes the focus off of yourself and places it on those in need.
Where do you feel lonely?
Being lonely may happen at specific places such as restaurants, family gatherings, social events, or even at home.
It may not be possible to avoid location stressors, but when you know you have to go somewhere that triggers loneliness, being mentally prepared can help you cope.
Attending a family function – possibly for the first time without your spouse – can be hard. Keep a positive attitude and surround yourself with plenty of conversation and laughter. Staying busy and focusing on others and the activities at hand will lessen the opportunity to feel lonely.
Related Reading: Staying Healthy After 60: How to Nourish Your Mind, Body, and Soul
Step 2: Become Physically Fit and Healthy
When your body is active and healthy, other aspects of your life start falling into place. There are many things you can do to stay physically fit and healthy, which stimulates hormones that help your mind and body feel better.
Go for a walk around your neighborhood or through the local park. If you go alone, listen to your favorite music or Podcast or just enjoy all the sights and sounds that nature has to offer. If you go with friends, keep things light by engaging in conversation and laughter.
Hit the Gym
Join a gym or YMCA. You can enjoy many activities such as yoga, exercise classes, swimming, or working out on the exercise equipment.
Tune Up Your Diet
Providing your body with the proper nutrition through good food choices will boost your physical and mental being. Cook for yourself or invite someone over to enjoy a nice healthy meal coupled with a great conversation – there’s no time to feel lonely here!
Get Enough Sleep
Having a set time to go to sleep each night and wake up each morning ensures you are giving your body the time it needs to rest and rejuvenate for the day’s activities.
The best way to make sure you get quality sleep is to:
- Create a regular bedtime routine by going to sleep at the same time each day.
- Avoid anything with a screen before bedtime (smartphones, computers, TVs).
Take Up a New or Renewed Sport
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never gone golfing a day in your life or if you used to golf every weekend. Now is a great time to start swinging that club! Physical activity, especially in the form of a sport or game, is good for your body and soul.
Play Word Games or Board Games
Games keep your mind active, bring about a little healthy competition, and usually generate a lot of laughter. Playing word or board games is a perfect way to drive away loneliness!
Further Reading: Staying Healthy After 60: How to Nourish Your Mind, Body, and Soul
Step 3: Leap Into a Mission of Discovery
This is a perfect time in your life to try new things. Take crafting or cake decorating classes, learn a new language, make a quilt, take up gardening – anything that interests you. The sky's the limit here, so find what you enjoy and get started.
Filling your time with something new and people that share your passion is a recipe for happiness, which will leave no time for being alone or feeling lonely. It’s a win-win!
Step 4: Connect With Others
It’s possible to be surrounded by people and still feel lonely. Loneliness begins to disappear when you start relating with others. For some, this is easy, but for others, it takes practice.
To connect with other people, choose social situations or activities you enjoy. Consider joining a bowling league, taking a constellation class at the local conservatory, volunteering, or simply spending time with family.
Whatever activities you choose, there are a few things that can help make them enjoyable and encourage a relationship with others.
- Be positive: approach your activity with a positive attitude.
- Be willing to engage in conversation: be open as others talk to you. Enjoy the small talk, and add to the discussion.
- Be present: make sure that you are present in your situation, not just in body, but in mind and spirit as well.
- Be open to change: learn that going with the flow can sometimes bring about new understandings and joys.
When you make an effort to connect with others in social situations, they can become pleasant experiences, giving you less time to feel lonely, and you might even make new friends.
Step 5: Consider Getting A Pet
There is nothing quite like a four-legged companion to help your psyche. There are very few places that don’t welcome pets these days, which puts a whole new light on the term constant companion.
If your living situation is pet-friendly, and you are capable of being a responsible pet owner, then this might be an excellent solution for you.
Having a companion to enjoy daily walks with or curl up on the sofa to watch a movie with is good for the soul.
Over 60 and Feeling Lonely – No Way!
When people end up alone, it’s either by choice or by circumstance, but no matter the reason, it doesn’t mean you have to be lonely.
Loneliness is a state of mind, but being healthy, happy, and active can help. Find the things you enjoy doing, and get busy.
Make sure you take the time to connect with others when engaging in social situations, and if you choose to be alone, embrace your time, stay positive, and enjoy the solitude.
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