Blogger Rosemary Bointon wrote today’s post on how to stay lively and beat loneliness after 50! Enjoy, darlings!
Have you found that you’re not keeping in touch with friends and maybe even family after 50? You lose the camaraderie of working, your kids have long since set up their own lives on the other side of the country, and other friends have moved to be nearer to their children. Maybe you’ve lost your life partner and, suddenly, the world is a lonely place.
It’s so easy to let things slip. You’ve had so much going on. Maybe you have health problems, or you had to downsize and move home and you don’t know many people in your new area.
All those types of events make it so important to keep in touch with your friends and family.
What can you do to make sure that you don’t end up as one of the many in the statistics about staying lively and fighting loneliness? Here are some ideas for keeping in touch.
How Do You Deal with your Friends and Family?
Keeping in touch can be a question of attitude. Do you take the advice of the Four Tops and ‘Reach Out’?
Or are you one of those people who never makes the effort to contact friends? Do you say things like, “We never see you these days. Why don’t you visit us anymore?”. (Why is it always the people who never contact you who say things like that? It makes my blood boil.) It can be a difficult balancing act. If it’s always you who initiates, then the others grow to expect it. It’s a question of finding the right balance and being sufficiently aware of what’s going on in their lives.
The Joys of Listening
A great way to endear yourself to your friends and family is to listen to their joys and concerns. That means paying attention in detail to what the person is saying and how they feel. People instinctively feel when somebody really listens to them and they respond to it with gratitude and love.
Keep positive and suggest solutions, rather than imposing your own miseries and woes on the person. (Nobody loves the person who always has it worse than they do. So don’t get into a ‘my woes are worse than yours’ type of competition. Just say something empathetic like ‘Oh, I bet that was really horrid to deal with. How did you manage?’)
If it is not something you’re used to doing, why not read up about how to listen or how to improve your empathy skills?
Following Through on Your Initiatives
Once you’ve been in touch, don’t forget that you’ll need to follow through. Keeping in touch is a regular activity, not just a once-in-a-blue-moon action. (Note: there are no blue moons in 2022.)
Try dropping a quick email about how much you enjoyed/were sorry about hearing, according to whatever it was you talked about. E.g. their children, where they went on holiday, their mother’s ill health, etc etc. (You’ll have noted the topics with your listening skills and enquiring further really shows you care.)
A Surprise Out of the Blue
Everyone likes an unexpected surprise. Just a quick message or a call out of the blue can warm someone’s heart.!
Think of the joy a little gift can bring. It needn’t be expensive. A packet of seeds, some horseradish sauce, a book (it needn’t be a new one, just one your friend might love), some flowers, or an interesting recipe to try.
Plan to Do Things Together
Even if you live far away you can still do things together! It might take a bit of planning. Here are some suggestions.
How about setting up a get-together over coffee or a drink? If not in person, then by zoom or Skype. Or you could suggest you each read the same book and then talk about it. How about extending the discussion to a wider group of friends and friends of friends?
Don’t like the idea of a book club – how about making it a film night?
Ask some friends to be accountability buddies to develop better exercise habits. A real or virtual walk that you could both do might be a fun way to spur yourselves on to more exercise. If you do it together on zoom or even on a quick WhatsApp call, that’s more time to gossip. With the social benefits of company and the health benefits of exercise, a longer life is your reward.
Staying active and keeping life interesting is one of the secret sauces to combatting loneliness.
Bringing Glimpses of Happier Days
Sometimes it’s enough just to be there for the life events of your friends and family.
I’ll never forget the support my friends Bryony and Judith provided me when my partner was killed in a road accident. When the world seemed to cave in with the weight of grief, they were just there.
They stayed with me. They arranged flowers, made meals, cleaned up, hugged me, and did many small practical jobs. But mostly they each just listened. I cried on their shoulders, raged at the stupidity of the accident, and laughed at the many happy memories we had all shared. I now remember that time for the happiness of being together to celebrate my partner’s life.
I’m sure you’ll easily remember how your friends supported you at joyful events such as weddings, bar mitzvahs, and christenings. Why not tell them what it meant to you, even if it was years ago?
Maybe your friend looked after you when you had an operation or a health problem. Perhaps they made you a meal, brought you grapes, went shopping for you, or just turned up bringing good cheer and a glimpse of happier days to come.
Make sure that you do the same and your friends and family won’t forget you when you need support.
Get Going for the Big Dividends of Reaching Out
If you are not very good at keeping in contact (as so many of us are not), try setting yourself a goal. Commit to reaching out to say one person a week, or if you’re up to it, one person a day! (You don’t have to do it forever. Reaching a realistic goal will provide a big boost to your own happiness.)
What sort of things counts as being proactive? Well, try making a list of all your friends’ birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Ask, if you don’t know – it’s a great excuse to contact people. Then send them a birthday card, an email or a present to show you remember.
Try phoning or sending a WhatsApp message asking how they are. Perhaps once every three months or more often if you like them a lot. Tell them a story about some little thing that happened to you and they will reciprocate, making your life more fun.
Take up following their social media. A little response such as a like or a short comment such as “lovely photo” could make your friend’s day. It doesn’t work with everyone. Some people do their utmost never to appear on any social media. You’ll need to keep a note of other ways to contact those people.
Just make sure that you do small regular things to keep the contact alive and to show you care.
Keeping in Touch: Bye Bye Loneliness
Simon and Garfunkel got it wrong. It’s not ‘bye bye happiness’, but ‘bye bye loneliness’.
It’s never too early or too late to keep in touch with family and friends. Imagine that you devoted ten minutes a day to keep in touch. It’s not very much time. But if you start today, you’ll soon see how it builds up. You’ll gradually find yourself going out more or having more friends pop in to see you.
Imagine the resources you’ll have after a year, after 5 years, or when you’re much older. When your rainy day comes along, you’ll have lots of friends, family members, neighbors, and acquaintances to call on. All because you took the time to keep in touch. You were the one on whom they could depend when they reached out. Now they respond when it’s your turn to reach out for help.
Loneliness is a killer. Keeping in touch keeps you alive and the love and companionship of friends and family give you a life worth living. You might make all the difference in someone’s life with a few small gestures How happy will that make you?
Why not think of someone who you would like to keep in touch with and reach out to?
A note from Honey: Darlings, what friend are you? The one that needs help remembering to reach out or the one who always does? Who are you deciding to reconnect with this week?
About the author:
Rosemary Bointon helps older people work out what to do now to live longer, and in better health with more fun and adventures. You can find her blog here.
** Please note that items purchased through links on this site may result in a commission for Honey Good.