Feeling well and overcoming loneliness
Feeling physically fit and mentally well are important at any age and the two are closely linked. People who feel fit and well often have a more positive outlook on life, and the reverse can be true too. Feeling unwell or lonely is not an inevitable part of ageing and it’s never too late to think about improving your well-being. Even little changes can make a big difference.
This guide provides some general advice for feeling well and overcoming loneliness later in life.
We hope that older people, their carers and families, find this guide useful. Print this page to give to someone you know or use the share button on the right of this page.
Looking after your body
Keeping moving and developing strength, flexibility and balance are all increasingly important as we grow older. Keeping fit can help you feel better and maintain a healthy weight, as well as building your confidence, helping you stay independent and improving your general sense of well-being.
If you are not very active, you will need to start slowly and build up to more demanding exercise. Your GP can advise you on what’s safe and appropriate for you. If you’re healthy and have no conditions that limit your mobility the Department of Health recommends that you do two-and-a-half hours of moderate aerobic exercise a week. Guidelines also suggest two sessions of muscle strengthening activity every week.
If you’re not very mobile or steady on your feet you can do a range of exercises sitting down that will improve your flexibility and strength. If you have a health condition that makes physical activity difficult, speak to your doctor who can help you choose the right exercise for you.
You can complete a useful fitness self-assessment at nhs.uk
Healthy eating check list
- Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day
- Drink 6-8 cups of fluid a day - tea, water, juice and squash all count
- Eat fish twice a week
- Don't eat too much salt or saturated fat
For more information about eating well read the free Royal Voluntary Service guide to nutrition in eating well when you're over 70
Conditions and illnesses
Contact your GP as soon as possible if you have any concerns about your health. You should also have your eyes checked regularly. People over the age of 60 are entitled to free eye tests, funded by the NHS. These checks mean that a range of conditions including cataracts and glaucoma can be picked up and treated early on.
Feeling well is not just about being physically fit and healthy, it is also important that you feel well mentally. It’s vital to have contact with friends and family whose company you enjoy. If your family don’t live nearby you might want to consider taking up activities or joining groups that will help you to meet people. It can be really hard to make that first step so if you are nervous about going along to a social group you could ask someone to go with you.
Regular phone calls, sending emails
or using the online video telephone
service Skype can all make staying
in touch easier.
Community-based clubs are not for everyone so if you’re not keen but would like some company, befriending might be for you. You can arrange for a Royal Voluntary Service volunteer to regularly spend some time with you at home, to have a chat and a cup of tea. Royal Voluntary Service is there every step of the way, providing simple, practical and neighbourly support in your community, which means you’re never on your own. Our befriending service means that you will have someone to talk to when it matters most.
It is also important to stay active and engaged in your local community. Choosing activities that get you out and about, meeting new people or volunteering in your local area can help give you a real sense of achievement in your life. Most people who volunteer give their time in order to help others, but there is a secondary benefit – volunteering is good for you. Working with other people, learning new skills, meeting new friends and knowing that you are making a difference can all help you to stay fit and active.
We all feel down from time-to-time but feeling depressed isn’t an inevitable part of growing older. Depression can be triggered by a range of different events including bereavement, health worries or loss of independence. Whatever causes it, it is a treatable condition. If you are down or think you may be experiencing feelings of depression you should arrange to see your GP.
Keep a diary of how you’re feeling so you can talk to your doctor about it. It may help you to set yourself little goals for the day, plan your activities, start small and build up to bigger plans. Review your progress and celebrate your achievements.
If you have experienced bereavement and would like to know about how other people have dealt with it, you can read Carol’s tips for dealing with bereavement
Spotting the signs of depression
- Feel unhappy?
- Worry or feel anxious a lot?
- Struggle to find positives in life?
- Not care about your appearance?
- Struggle to do simple tasks?
- Find you’re sleeping too much or too little?
- Lost interest in life and what you used to enjoy?
- Withdrawn from family and friends?
- Lost your appetite?
If you have experienced some of these symptoms for more than a couple of weeks visit your GP for support and advice.
Five small steps to a healthier, happier you
A few changes can make a big difference to your overall sense of well-being. Here are five small steps you can take to make you feel better.
- Get active - Do some light exercise, whether it’s tending your garden, using the stairs more regularly or joining a walking club.
- Get involved - Take steps to become more engaged in your local community by visiting a lunch club or volunteering at a local scheme.
- Stay connected - Talking to people is one of the best ways to feel good and avoid loneliness. See friends and family regularly, or if you can't get out but would like some company try using the internet to keep in touch with people wherever they are. If you don’t have a computer at home most libraries have computers you can use free of charge, or for a small fee. Contact Royal Voluntary Service about its befriending and transport services so you have the practical support you need.
- Eat well - A healthy and balanced diet will help you feel your best. It’s important to stay hydrated too.
- Sleep well - You may find that your sleep patterns change as you get older and you need less sleep than you used to. It might make you feel lethargic and down. You can improve your sleep by reducing day-time naps, going to bed at the same time each night and reducing the amount of caffeine you drink.
Please exercise your common sense when considering this guide and whether to take any of the steps that may be suggested in it. Whilst we have taken reasonable care to ensure that any factual information is accurate and complete, most of the information in this guide is based on our views and opinions (and sometimes the views and opinions of the people or organisations we work with). As a result, we cannot make any promises about the accuracy or the completeness of the information and we don’t accept any responsibility for the results of your reliance on it.
If you would like to receive this information in a different format, please email us