With Valentine’s Day on the way, those who don’t have a significant other in their lives many feel lonely- especially if they’ve lost that special someone.
This is especially true for the elderly, who have often had their significant other pass away, their family move abroad, or simply have no one close to their homes. The UK has approximately 3.5 million people aged 65 and older who live alone, so NRS has been looking into ways they can combat this loneliness-especially around the most “romantic” day of the year.
NRS surveyed 519 people, and asked about their feelings towards the commercialisation of Valentines Day. 81% of respondents felt that the focus on finding the “perfect” gift has overshadowed the actual meaning of the day- which is supposed to be about showing how much you love each other. For people over 65, a huge 91% felt that the day is now too commercial.
Did you know that loneliness is as harmful as smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day? In fact, being socially isolated is also worse for us than physical inactivity and obesity.
Often we focus on the physical health of the elderly, and ignore mental health. But this is a mistake as studies have shown that our mental health actually has a huge influence on our physical health.
In the UK, 17% of older people have contact with neighbours, friends, and family members less than once a week, and 11% less than once a month. For those who are retired, this can mean they have a lot of empty time to fill. Combine that with the fact that more than half of those 75 and older are living alone, and 3.9 million older people count the televison as their main company.
To help combat the loneliness that many older people feel around special occasions like Valentine’s Day, NRS has created some Conversation Starter Cards which have been specifically developed to encourage a conversation with the elderly. Many of the questions begin with phrases like “Tell me about…” or other open-ended questions that allow older people to take their time answering without feeling like they’re put on the spot.
So how can you help? Take the time to visit an older person or give them a call this Valentine’s Day, and if you’re unsure what you should talk about, pull out a few of these conversation cards and you may be surprised at how easily the conversation flows from there.
Often we’re so wrapped up in our lives that we forget how much experience and wisdom the older generations have. These are people who have lived through the depression, world wars, and multiple changes of government, and they’re ready to share their experiences with us.
The conversation cards are being supported by the Campaign to End Loneliness, which is all about building connections for older people. This Valentine’s Day, take the time to reach out to someone who may be feeling lonely, and you’ll probably find that it lifts your spirits as well.