How to spot the signs of loneliness in older adults

While many of us will feel lonely at some point in our lives, older adults are especially vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation. According to research by Age UK, there are over 1.4 million older adults in the UK that report feeling frequently lonely. On top of the negative impact, long-term loneliness can have on a person’s mental health, it can also lead to serious health concerns.

If you are looking after someone that may be struggling with feelings of vulnerability or loneliness, there are ways that you can help. Keep reading to learn how to spot the signs of loneliness in your family and friends and how you can provide support.


People can feel lonely or socially isolated for a variety of reasons. Many people feel lonely because they don’t have strong social networks or are unhappy with the ones they have. There may not always be a specific reason why someone feels lonely.

Some of the factors associated with feeling lonely in later life include:

  • A lack of social networks: Living alone, a lack of contact with friends and family and limited opportunities to participate in social occasions can all lead to feelings of loneliness.
  • Bereavement: Losing a partner, family member or friend is a common cause of loneliness and isolation at any stage in life.
  • Health concerns: Problems with overall health or mobility can make it difficult for people to get out and about or visit family and friends. This can lead to a person becoming socially isolated.
  • Social barriers: Depending on where a person lives, they may not have meaningful opportunities to interact or socialise with others in their community.
  • Mental health concerns: Depression, social anxiety and low self-esteem can put someone at increased risk for chronic loneliness.


Sometimes it is obvious that someone is dealing with loneliness, especially if they have just experienced the loss of a partner, family member or friend. Other times, the signs of loneliness are subtle and hard to notice.

Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of loneliness in older adults:

  • Restless sleep
  • Lack of appetite
  • Verbal cues
  • Increased buying habits
  • A change in the frequency of phone calls or other communication
  • An increased amount of time spent at home alone
  • Unusual changes in behaviour such as becoming withdrawn or isolating from others


Here are some practical tips to provide your loved ones with companionship and emotional support to help alleviate feelings of loneliness or isolation:

Take Time to Listen

Sometimes all it takes to alleviate some of the loneliness your loved one is experiencing is to spend more time talking and listening to them. Encourage your loved one to express themselves and what they’re thinking and feeling – you may just discover some new interests or passions waiting to be rekindled.

If you’re able to, spend some time visiting your loved one in person. You don’t necessarily have to plan an outing or other activity. You can simply spend time catching up, going over old photo albums or playing a board game. Even a short visit can go a long way to helping your loved one feel supported.

Encourage New Hobbies and Activities

Hobbies help older people to feel a sense of purpose. Socialising with people that share similar interests and activities is a great way to reduce feelings of loneliness.

Encourage your loved one to explore new clubs, hobbies or activities they might enjoy. This can help them make new friends and enjoy a sense of community. Try visiting a community or senior centre near them to see what’s available.

Maintain Regular Communication

One way that you can help your loved one feel less lonely is to keep in regular contact with them. create a consistent schedule for communication, such as calling at a certain time during the week. By committing to a regular communication schedule, you’ll provide your loved one with something to look forward to throughout the week. You can even create a roster of family and friends to ensure someone is reaching out to your loved one every day.

Get Them Out of the House

Some older adults become used to spending extended periods of time at home. While everyone enjoys relaxing from time to time, spending too much time at home alone can leave someone feeling lonely or disconnected from their community.

Getting out and enjoying the outdoors has many benefits other than simply providing a change of scenery. Studies suggest that spending time outdoors offers significant and wide-ranging benefits for overall health, including reducing feelings of boredom, anxiety and depression.

Go for a walk with your loved one, visit a park for a picnic or encourage them to enjoy their morning cup of coffee in the garden. You’ll both reap the benefits of spending time together outdoors.

Improve Communication Through Technology

Technology can help breach the distance between people. If your loved one is new to modern technology like smartphones or tablets, offer to show them how to send texts or make video calls. This can help them stay in contact with family and friends. Special tools like screen magnifiers and digital pens make it easier to use the small screen of a phone or tablet. If a smartphone proves to be too confusing or complicated, you can look into mobile phones specifically designed for older people.

Speak to Their Doctor

Encourage your loved one to share their feelings of loneliness with their doctor or a mental health professional. Sometimes loneliness is a symptom of a medical or mental health concern. A doctor can help you rule out any underlying causes for the symptoms you are experiencing and provide strategies to help improve your mood.


Age UK has a variety of social services, local leisure activities and groups for older people. Each local Age UK has its own unique timetable of clubs and classes. Find out what groups and activities your local Age UK runs.

Independent Age will match an older adult with a volunteer that can drop in regularly for a coffee and a chat.

The Silver Line is a free, confidential helpline where older adults can receive friendship, companionship and support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


If someone you care for is showing signs of loneliness or vulnerability, our competent and compassionate carers can help.

For over 75 years, Prestige Nursing & Care has provided highly-personalised care at home, for all of life. Our bespoke and individually-tailored home care services are designed to support people in living with greater independence and improved quality of life in their own homes.

On top of providing support with everyday tasks, our carers are there to offer friendly companionship and emotional support. By providing a listening and sympathetic ear, supporting hobbies and interests or just popping in for tea and a chat, our carers can help reduce the feelings of loneliness and isolation that are so often experienced later in life.

To learn more about our companionship care at home delivered by care experts, do not hesitate to contact us. Our friendly team is there to support your family every step of the way.

Contact Us

We are here to take your call and will provide impartial support and guidance – contact our friendly care experts today to discuss your care needs.

0808 239 1525


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