Helping older people build a supportive social network

Loneliness among older adults is a prevalent issue causing major adverse effects on the mental and physical well-being of many UK citizens. Building supportive social networks and engaging in meaningful social interactions is crucial in combating loneliness and promoting a sense of belonging. In this blog, we share our ideas for helping older people make new friends and discover interesting social opportunities, along with a few useful nationwide and local support services.

Building supportive social networks

Participation in community activities

Encouragement to join local clubs, daycentres, or community groups that align with interests, such as book clubs, hobby groups, sports, or volunteering opportunities. These activities provide excellent avenues for meeting like-minded individuals and fostering new connections.

Embracing technology

Teaching older adults how to use social media platforms, video chat apps, or online forums to help connect with friends, family, and communities of interest. Virtual interactions can bridge geographical gaps and expand social networks.

Promote intergenerational connections

Encouraging older adults to engage with younger generations through mentorship programmes, volunteering at schools, or participating in intergenerational community events. These connections provide a wonderful sense of purpose and foster mutual learning.

Making new friends

Attend events and workshops

Encourage attendance at local events, workshops, or seminars focused on topics of interest. This provides an opportunity to meet new people who share similar passions and to engage in meaningful conversations. If fit and able, visits to museums, parks and beauty spots are great places to strike up a chat with other singles passing the time. Cafes, pubs and local diners often offer a warm welcome to new customers. Take a book or newspaper to read if the place is empty but do try and have a few words with nearby guests and, of course, pass pleasantries with the staff. Go back, regularly, to build up connections with other clientele; many of whom are often in the same boat.

Join support groups

Investigate support groups or organisations specifically catering to older adults in the community. These groups often organise regular gatherings where individuals can share experiences, drink tea and form friendships.

Engage in lifelong learning

Encourage older adults to enrol in classes or workshops that promote lifelong skills, such as art classes, language courses, or culinary and practical skills, these environments offer opportunities for socialising while pursuing personal interests.  There are no limits to education and it’s possible to start a degree online at any age with the Open University, sharing live and recorded lectures with students of all ages across geographical boundaries. The University of the Third Age (U3A) is a nationwide network of learning groups aimed at encouraging older people to share their knowledge, skills and interests in a friendly environment. There are no exams and no homework, just regular lessons or study groups.

Socialising opportunities

Day centres

These offer a range of social activities, including exercise classes, games, arts and crafts, and group outings. They serve as a hub for older adults to connect with peers and engage in stimulating activities. Contact your local council for a list of venues and, probably, their waiting list.

Local libraries

Libraries often host book clubs, lectures, and readings that attract individuals with shared interests. Explore your local resources and attend events to meet fellow book lovers and engage in (intellectual) discussions.

Community events

Stay informed about local events, such as sporting tournaments, craft fairs, or concerts. These events provide a chance for older adults to socialise while enjoying shared experiences. The music and drama departments of many senior schools regularly put on highly professional shows and concerts, these are much cheaper than regular theatre seats and a nice way to support local youngsters and budding thespians appreciative of an audience and its participation. Check out the tournaments at local cricket, tennis, bowls, football clubs; and whether they need any volunteer stewards.

Nationwide charities and Helplines

Age UK

Age UK offers a national advice line (0800 678 1602) providing information and support to older adults. They also run various services and activities, including befriending programmes, exercise classes, and local social groups.

The Silver Line

The Silver Line operates a helpline (0800 4 70 80 90) available 24/7, providing a friendly and supportive chat to combat loneliness among older adults. They can also connect individuals to local services and offer regular friendship calls.

Royal Voluntary Service

The Royal Voluntary Service runs one of the largest networks of volunteers, putting its helpers in touch with isolated residents who could do with seeing a friendly face or a helping hand now and then. They even run a virtual Village Hall where anyone can pop in and enjoy the online activities.

There are other national service providers too. For older people who are not online a visit to a local library is a good starting point. Kind librarians can often run computer searches for details, and many have printed leaflets to take away.

In our neck of the woods, there are several useful support services covering residents in Bromley and Croydon:

  1. Croydon Neighbourhood Care Association (CNCA) offers various befriending, transportation assistance, and social clubs for older adults.
  2. Bromley Well provides a range of services to support the well-being of adults in the Bromley area. Their services include befriending, social groups, and community navigation to help individuals access relevant support networks.

By actively promoting supportive social networks, facilitating new friendships, and identifying opportunities for socialisation, we can help to combat loneliness among older adults. Encouraging participation in community activities, embracing technology, and connecting with younger generations are all essential steps, but often easier said than done.

Nationwide charities and specialist local organisations provide valuable resources and support services to help older adults build fulfilling and compassionate social networks. Together, we can make a difference and promote a real sense of belonging for seniors. If you’d like to know more about Verilife and our unique approach to care, do please get in touch.

If you are interested in ways to prevent or reduce the risk of developing dementia later in life, you can get in touch with our care workers for more tailored advice. Our care team is also proficient in optimising your home to cater to a dementia diagnosis, ensuring your safety. To get in touch with our Verilife team, email us on hello@verilife.co.uk or call 020 3141 9290.

Contact us