Living Alone and Loneliness: I. Stepping Up and Stepping Out

 Stats show that more men in their 40’s and 50’s are living alone – the Office  of National Statistics data records that 1.3 million middle-aged men in the UK are living alone. Part of the reason is due to the decline of marriage (down from 79% of men in this age group in 1996 to 69% in 2012), higher divorce rates, the social and economic situation (effecting work), and lifestyle choices – both men and women are getting choosier about who they want to live with!

Is living alone a problem for older men? Research shows that isolation is not good for us and loneliness can become an unhealthy experience, increasing the risk of mental health problems and depression in particular. However, there is also a difference between outer and inner loneliness, although of course the two are closely linked.

So here are ways to help explore both outer and inner loneliness, and to help make living alone not become a problem for us: Stepping Out and Stepping Out and Enjoying Our Own Company.

I. Stepping Up and Stepping Out … Balance your choice to live alone with getting out and about:

1. Start with small steps – If you live alone or you feel you are spending too much time on your own, break the habit by going out for a walk in your local area or town, and say ‘Hello’ or ‘Good Morning’ to some of the people you recognise (including shopkeepers and cashiers).

2. Make more of a habit of having short conversations with people you know – small conversations accumulate into bigger ones (including phone calls and email). If you are out of practice talking socially, start by asking people about themselves and what they are most interested in.

3. Try to have some face-to-face meetings rather than only talking on the phone -if you are in a new group or crowd, don’t be embarrassed if you are being mostly quiet, feeling shy, or having difficult feelings about joining in. This is something EVERYBODY feels at the beginning.

4. Care about your appearance when you go out, and especially what you wear – try wearing different clothes to express yourself personality positively. For encouragement see What Ali Wore http://alioutfit.tumblr.com/ , or explore ‘inspiring menswear’ ideas at  http://bloodwood.org/!

5. Join the UK Shed Movement http://menssheds.org.uk/ – Hang out with other men, relax and have some laughs, without having to talk a lot if you don’t want to, or do anything special together.

6. Think about the things that genuinely interest you – there will likely be social groups of like-minded souls to share your experience, values, and interests:

– Walking groups (http://www.ramblers.org.uk/go-walking/find-a-group.aspx),

– Laughing more (eg ‘laughter yoga’! http://www.laughteryoga.co.uk/)

– Being a Performer: get into song  (eg ‘Tonsils’ listing of 3,000+ UK choirs http://www.choirs.org.uk/), or dance (http://www.danceuk.org/ – and then there’s Strictly Come Dancing celebrity Len Goodman (aged 68) http://www.goodmandance.co.uk/ !)

– Learning, participating, and using your brain: Google ‘adult and community classes’ for your area, or for a self-help approach to learning join the University of the Third Age http://www.u3a.org.uk/

– Being a Campaigner: join the ageactionalliance http://ageactionalliance.org/ , and participate in the ‘Campaign to End Loneliness’ http://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org.uk/

– Being a Volunteer:  join the Royal Voluntary Service http://www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/. The RVS recently dropped the ‘W’ in its title, as it now has more than 6,000 male volunteers. According to RVS research 3 million men are interested in volunteer work in the UK.

– Sharing your life experience, special skills and particular passions: join theamazings http://www.theamazings.com/!