Loneliness in old age: how people make new friends later in life

A man lonely and alone on the road in a cemetery


Loneliness in old age: When the phone doesn’t ring and no Christmas mail lands in the mailbox, older people feel the loneliness of the holidays especially strongly. Loneliness can make you ill and lead to depression. But how can I prevent this? Are there ways out of loneliness in old age? How can I make new contacts even in my old age?? Not only the former vice chancellor Franz Muntefering has some helpful advice for older people on this subject.

Loneliness increases with age

It’s nice when you have found some, because in old age new friends and contacts no longer run across the way so easily.

The older we get, the more difficult it is to maintain friendships or even to make new ones. The best friend from school days has passed away, the buddy from the soccer club lives too far away. How to expand the social network again, when you often feel lonely and the feeling of loneliness increases with age?

It’s a kind of natural attrition: from the age of 30, one person in the circle of friends is lost about every five years. The clique scatters in all directions, different life plans make it difficult to keep contact.

Up to the age of 75. According to studies, social contacts continue to decline until the age of 75, says gerontologist Sven Voelpel from Jacobs University Bremen. "Usually these are then limited to once a week."

Loneliness in old age: causes among men

Loneliness in old age is often caused by men in particular confusing colleagues with friends. When they leave the profession, these "apparent" friends are then lost. Men tend to have more functional contacts. They know where to find craft support, for example. Women, on the other hand, often have more intensive relationships that focus more on family and relatives or the neighborhood.

Social interaction is what prolongs our lives and keeps us mentally healthy.It’s not just about interaction between peers, but also about cross-generational contact. These can be the grandchildren or grandchildren of choice or elementary school children who are helped with their homework. Both sides benefit!

When loneliness at Christmas is unbearable in old age

Video description: Not for nothing did Edeka come up with the idea for such a spot.

Loneliness is bad, not the self-imposed loneliness, says Franz Muntefering. The former vice chancellor is active as chairman of the Federal Association of Senior Citizens’ Organizations (BAGSO). Especially in larger cities, older people are often cut off from the outside world, he says:

Especially at Christmas, old people feel the loneliness of old age particularly strongly. When the phone doesn’t ring and no Christmas mail lands in the mailbox. The annoying aunt, the intrusive brother-in-law, the loud mother – Christmas in the circle of the family can be exhausting. But for many people, one thing is even worse than dear relatives: spending the holidays alone.

Many people are unhappy and alone. Because they often have a family, but contact with children and grandchildren has broken off. By Christmas at the latest, many of them fall into a particularly deep hole, sometimes into depression. The days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve used to be dominated by sociability in their lives. Now there is only the memory.

Ways out of loneliness in old age: creating opportunities to meet people

So what can you do to counteract the effects of loneliness in old age?? If you want to make new friends in old age, there are fewer opportunities than when you were in your mid-30s. One must go thus different ways, in order to come from the loneliness in age out. Create opportunities: from adult education centers to dance classes to educational events. A dog is also a great way to make contacts and can be an effective means of combating loneliness.

Fear of loneliness in old age? Movement and meeting protect

Muntefering suggests combining exercise and encounters and, for example, joining a senior citizens’ sports club. "If you meet twice a week and go for a walk together, you’re guaranteed to meet new people," he explains. "They’re old then, and they might be weird, but it’s better to walk with weird people than sit alone in the apartment."

Another way out of loneliness in old age is to meet people. For example, at lunch tables, in clubs, in care facilities or multigenerational projects. The common meal or. social contacts are also a good way to structure the day. Those who live alone at home often lack a regular routine.

Revive old acquaintances to escape loneliness in old age

By walking the dog, you quickly come into contact with other people and can escape the loneliness of old age.

It is also advisable to cultivate friendships from the outset so as not to be alone in old age. Here’s how to proactively combat the sometimes serious consequences of loneliness in old age. You can also write a letter to your boyfriend or girlfriend and emphasize how important the other person is to you. For men especially, she says, it’s significant to maintain their male friendships. In addition, it can be useful to think about who you still know from the past, but have lost sight of. Maybe an old acquaintance can be revived with the help of the internet.

In general, the Internet offers many opportunities and ways to escape from loneliness in old age. The older we get, the more the net becomes our window to the world. Especially for those who are no longer so mobile, the screen is often the only way out. Special platforms for seniors, like dating sites, can help you find exactly the right friend for you. "Precise preselection gives you a chance to build deep friendships once again," Voelpel says.

Old is the one who does not start anything new

In addition, volunteering is a way out of loneliness in old age to make contacts: whether in refugee care, sharing experiences with students and trainees, as a surrogate granny or reading aloud in a retirement home. "In many cities, there are volunteer mediators who can help you if you haven’t found the right one for you yet or if you need help yourself," Muntefering knows.

Old age is when you don’t start anything new anymore. In this respect, friendships formed late in life are also an opportunity to reinvent oneself and to leave no room for the fear of loneliness. One can think very carefully about what one reveals about oneself. But if you want to find good friends, you have to be willing to tell them something about yourself. Many older people find this difficult, especially if their own lives have not been as straightforward as they wanted them to be or have even been marked by personal failures. But a real relationship only develops through openness on both sides – this is no different with older people than it is in younger years.

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