LLTTF With Older Adults
We all experience periods of time when we’re just not feeling at our best, for example since covid, it may feel ‘life just hasn’t been the same’ some people continue to be worried about going outside and mixing with others – potentially catching covid. For some people as they get older in years, staying happy and ‘Living Life to the Full’ may seem be harder. Perhaps because it may mean living in care homes or living at home on their own. For some this can be a lonely time, they may experience depression, low levels of satisfaction and overall sense of wellbeing. As we get older, we may feel a sense of loss of identity, when we can no longer do the things we used to, this may be due to illness, disability, physical weakness or being isolated socially as we may have lost a partner and perhaps don’t have the same social circle, hobbies and interests as before.
No matter your age- engaging in meaningful activities, maintaining, and developing your personal identity while making sure you are getting the right help for any health conditions are key to maintaining or improving your mental wellbeing to living a happier life.
Often, older people may be feeling down but don’t want to be a burden on their friends and families, so instead of reaching out for the help they need, they ‘put up with it’ in silence, whether this be emotional or physical problems. There still exists an element of stigma surrounding loneliness, and older people tend not to ask for help because they have too much pride. This is often linked to cohort beliefs and familial and societal cultures. This may differ depending on where you have been brought up and live.
The truth is- like everybody’s situations, ‘a stitch in time saves nine.’ It is important to reach out no matter your age and access the help you need when you need it. You may find by doing so you are able to connect with people and feel better for their support, rather than suffering in silence and becoming increasingly depressed and isolated.
What You Can Do
Don’t suffer in silence – talk to someone about how you are feeling.
Or to work out why you feel like you do try using our worksheet Understanding Your Feelings.
‘The vicious cycle’ is a way of understanding how often the worse we feel the less we do and the less we do the worse we feel. If we succumb to this way of being, we might not only stop doing the things that make us feel good- like visiting our neighbours or friends, going to your social club, doing but we may stop doing the ‘should’ things like accessing the GP and medical appointments when we need to and eating well to stay healthy and strong.
When we are stressed or low in mood/depressed we often don’t see life in a balanced way and we focus on negative things. Bad thoughts go round and around in our head. Learn how to stop the cycle and spin it the other way. The vicious cycle is one of the key elements of our course and once we learn to spin the cycle the other way, we can start reintroducing the things we like to do, that make us feel happy, back into our life, and also to do the things we need to do, like paying bills, doctor appointments.
The good news is the vicious cycle can spin the other way and become a virtuous cycle.
Start Doing ‘Something’
The chances are you will know someone in your community who is feeling the same way as you. Social connections are the most important part of combatting loneliness – whether it is a telephone call, chat with a carer, have a relative to visit, or a neighbour or contacting a charity who will help you to reconnect. By making plans to reach out to people who may be lonely themselves, the act of kindness will make you feel rewarded too. Have a look at our planner sheet to get you started.
Write a Happy List
When you’re down it’s easy to forget the good times. The times you’ve succeeded in something, happy times with friends and family, things that make you smile, but equally looking back at these times can make us feel sad and nostalgic, as perhaps we have lost people and are not able to do the same things anymore. But there are many things you can get involved in that will make you happier and help to combat loneliness and can assist in keeping your mind sharp, body strong, and your spirits high.
Think about the things you can do to make you feel happier, even if it is the smallest thing. You can access local community groups- this will vary according to where you live, but the chances are you’ll have access to some of the following: a singing or walking group, craft groups, book clubs, bridge, bingo, quiz nights and faith groups and more.
There are many charities available to help such as the Women’s Institute, Rotary, Re-engage https://www.reengage.org.uk/ and Careline that can offer advice. https://www.careline.co.uk/
If you can, it is a great idea to get outside and enjoy some fresh air, or even look out of the window or sit in the garden if you have one. Reconnecting with nature can do wonders for your mental wellbeing. At LLTTF we like to call it putting on your ‘WOW glasses’. If you focus on really noticing what’s around you- outside of your four walls, you will see that the world is full of wonders- for everyone at every age.
If you can take a bit of gentle exercise, like a walk, you may feel so much better. Start small and build it up gently. Or if you need assistance from a family member, carer or relative, let them know it’s important to you to get outside, and they can help you if needs be, go for a walk, or put a chair in the garden for a while or take you in your wheelchair. Being active and getting outside has a whole range of benefits when it comes to mental wellbeing. It improves mood and sleep quality, and it reduces stress, anxiety and fatigue. Physically active people are more likely to maintain their health and wellbeing and staying active often helps those who are depressed recover.
It is easy to feel scared and overwhelmed by the thought of what the future may hold, your health and worry about your family and other issues. Our Tension Control Training (TCT) can be a very useful tool for aiding relaxation and improving your sleep. Take a look here at our resources.
Using our TCT handout or listening to the two linked audio relaxation files, you can learn a method of achieving a state of calm relaxation. The key to this approach is to help you to relax and control the tension in your body and move your thoughts away from the worries that can dominate your thinking. It involves noticing and being mindful about your body and breathing and helps you let thoughts just be so you can move your mind to a calm controlled relaxed state.
Create a Good Support Network
It’s important to remember loneliness can – and does – affect anyone, of any age. There are ways for older people to connect with others and feel useful and appreciated again. If you’re feeling down and alone, it’s tempting to think nobody wants to visit you. But often friends, family and neighbours will appreciate receiving an invitation to come and spend time with you.
If you’d prefer for someone else to host, Re-engage is a charity that holds regular free Sunday afternoon tea parties for people over the age of 75 who live alone. You’ll be collected from your home and driven to a volunteer host’s home for the afternoon. Apply online or call Re-engage on 0800 716 543. https://www.reengage.org.uk/
Keep in touch by phone
Having a chat with a friend or relative over the phone can be the next best thing to being with them. Or you can call The Silver Line, a helpline for older people set up by Esther Rantzen, on 0800 470 80 90.
You can also call Independent Age on 0800 319 6789, Age UK on 0800 055 6112, or Friends of the Elderly https://www.fote.org.uk/ on 0300 332 1110 to receive a weekly or fortnightly friendship call from a volunteer who enjoys talking to older people.
Learn to use computers (if you don’t already!)
If your friends and family live far away, a good way to stay in touch, especially with grandchildren, is by using a computer or mobile device. You can share emails and photos with family and friends, have free video chats using services such as Skype, FaceTime or Viber, and make new online friends or reconnect with old friends on social media sites such as Facebook.
A tablet computer can be especially useful if you can’t get around very easily, as you can sit with it on your knee or close to hand and the screen is clear and bright. A sponge-tip stylus pen or speech recognition may help if the touchscreen is difficult for arthritic hands or fingers with poor circulation. Libraries and community centres often hold regular training courses for older people to learn basic computer skills – as well as being a good place to meet and spend time with others in their own right.
Local branches of Age UK https://www.ageuk.org.uk/services/information-advice/ run classes in computing to help older people get to grips with smartphones, tablet computers and email. Get some tips and advice on how to become more confident using the internet, including how to access your GP surgery online and how to look for reliable online health information.
So why not start today? Write down a few things you can do, to start feeling better and reconnecting and living your life to the fullest that you can today. No matter your age, we all have aspirations and opinions and much to give your community, your family and the wider world.
The Living Life to the Full Team.