Avoiding isolation – our top tips

Abigail sat in her lounge with a cup of tea, looking away to the distance.

January can be a particularly miserable time of year. Christmas and New Year are over, and Blue Monday, reportedly the most depressing day of the year, is in the middle of the month. The short days and dark nights can make it hard to get motivated to get out and about.

If you have poor mobility and find it difficult to get around, especially if the weather turns bad, this can lead to isolation.

Isolation can increase your risk of feeling depressed and anxious, which can have negative effects on your symptoms. Here are our tips on how to avoid feeling isolated.

Get about safely

Make sure you can get about safely. Invest in comfortable, supportive footwear with good grip to wear during icy weather.

If you need a stick and you do decide to go out, it’s sensible to make sure that the bottom of the stick (the ferrule) has good grip. There are particular ferrules available for wet and/or icy conditions.

Public transport can be a useful alternative to driving. Local bus services often go to shopping centres, supermarkets and hospitals.

Some areas offer community transport services which can include door-to-door transport and trips to shopping centres. Find out what community transport services are available in your area.

Start a new hobby

Hobbies can be great ways of meeting new people and learning a new skill. Many traditional crafts like knitting and baking have made a comeback in recent years and you might find local groups that do these crafts. Many libraries and community centres also run classes, events and groups. Find out more about what is available in your area.

If you’re looking to improve your fitness levels, you could join an exercise class. Local gyms and sports centres often run group classes like yoga or aquarobics, which are particularly good for people with arthritis. Many areas also have walking groups. Signing up to a group or class can give you an incentive to go out and keep active. Read more about the Escape Pain project.

There will probably be opportunities to volunteer within your community. Your skills, experience and knowledge could be put to great use for many different organisations. This will give you a sense of purpose and a chance to make new friends. There are many websites, such as NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations) or vInspired, which can give you some ideas. Or why not get in touch with our community team on localfundraising@versusarthritis.org to find out about opportunities to volunteer with us?

Have hearing and eye tests

If you can’t hear or see people around you properly, it could make you reluctant to socialise. A good hearing aid, glasses or contact lenses could make the world of difference and make you feel like getting out and making new friends.

Speak to your GP if you think you need a hearing or eye test. Some high-street shops also provide tests.

Get chatting

If you’re feeling lonely and isolated, it can be easy to feel a bit shy and reluctant to strike up conversations. But the more effort you put in to start a conversation, whether it's with a shop cashier, another passenger on a bus or someone in a cafe, the more rewards you’re likely to get back.

Help to build your local community by making an effort to talk with your neighbours. Learn their names, always say hello and ask after them. This will make them more inclined to do the same for you and to look out for you.

Reach out

Major life events, such as giving up work or the loss of a partner, can make feelings of isolation much worse. Asking someone who cares for help can make a huge difference.

If you'd prefer to talk with someone outside of your friends and family, many organisations offer support and advice around these issues. Find out more about our helpline (0800 5200 520).

Plan ahead

Having activities in your diary can give you something to look forward to. It can also help you pace yourself, especially if your condition causes fatigue. It’s good to have time put aside to do things you enjoy.

If you can’t get out easily, ask friends and family to come to you instead.

If you have a group of friends, you could ask a different one to bring dinner each time so no one has to cook every time and you get to try different dishes.

If plans fall through, you’ll hopefully have something else booked in for another day so you won’t feel too disappointed. 

Get online

For every hobby and interest, there’ll be an online community talking about it. Online communities can help you to meet people from all around the world who share the same interests as you, and they can help you keep up with events even if you can’t get about easily. Check out our online community.

You can also use the internet to keep in touch with friends and family. You could chat to people using:

  • email
  • Facebook and Twitter
  • Skype and FaceTime.

Many libraries and colleges run computer courses. These can help improve your confidence if you're new to computers or if you want to brush up your skills, and they also give you the opportunity to meet people.

Where can I find out more?

Age UK For support and advice for older people on work and general health and well-being:
0800 169 2081
www.ageuk.org.uk

Cruse for support following a bereavement:
0844 477 9400
helpline@cruse.org.uk
www.cruse.org.uk

Independent Age For information for older people on avoiding isolation:
0800 319 6789
www.independentage.org

Mind for information and support:
0300 123 3393
info@mind.org.uk
www.mind.org.uk