A survey by the AARP Foundation reported that 1 in 3 adults over 45 are lonely.
Not everyone who lives alone feels lonely and not everyone who is lonely lives alone. Researchers have found that it’s the perception of feeling lonely, rather than social isolation, that is harmful to health.
In fact, feeling lonely is associated with an increased risk of developing dementia.
So, what’s the difference between someone who feels lonely and someone who doesn’t? Adults who report feeling lonely are more likely to turn to isolating activities to curb their loneliness like watching TV, using the internet, or eating. Alternatively, people who don’t feel lonely talk with friends, meet up with people outside their home, and interact with family to cope with loneliness. Older adults who volunteer, are involved in clubs, and attend religious services say they are less lonely.
One factor that seems to influence loneliness is moving later in life. People 45 and older who have lived for 20 years or more at their current address report the lowest rates of loneliness while people who have moved within the past 10 years are considered the most lonely. So, what to do if you’ve moved recently or just need to refresh your social circle?
Here are some tips on meeting new people and making new social connections:
1. Find a group online
It’s easy to start a conversation with people with whom you share a common interest. Whether it’s knitting, classic cars, baking, or running, you can find a group of people who share your interest online. Look for a local group that has in-person meetups.
2. Stay fit
Exercise is good for your brain health, but it’s also a great way to grow your social circle. Try a running club, or attend a class at the gym. If you don’t consider yourself athletic or have physical limitations, don’t fret. There are walking clubs and even chair yoga classes for people who need a slower or gentler workout.
3. Stay in business
Many people have family-like bonds with their coworkers. Even if you retired, working 1 or 2 days a week can keep your social circle in tact.
4. Break the ice
It might feel awkward to introduce yourself to a stranger, but sometimes that’s what it takes. If you spot someone at the coffee shop reading a book you enjoyed, there’s your perfect opportunity to ask what they like about the book.