As we age, we begin to struggle more with feelings of loneliness during the winter months. With the days getting shorter and the nights longer, social gatherings often get skipped which can lead to becoming disengaged from society
Studies show that there’s a connection between our temperature internally and our need to socialise. Those that were colder felt more of a need to reach out to others. This underlines the importance of keeping warm to ease loneliness.
Why do we feel more isolated during winter?
The cold season can affect anyone’s mental state. The plummeting temperatures make it tempting to hibernate indoors. But, when this is for longer periods of time, this can lead to seclusion. That said, when we do feel like getting out with our social circle, the unpredictability of the weather makes it trickier.
Do we also feel colder internally when we’re lonely?
So, what about the reverse? When we feel cold, do we feel lonely? The answer is yes! There’s evidence from a study that shows being alone can increase how sensitive we are to the cold. This has a lot to do with our evolution and being part of a group increasing our chance of survival. Our brains automatically see being left out as a threat.
In practical terms, this shows we must find ways to maintain a comfortable temperature in our living environments.
Does being cold affect how we feel mentally?
Have you ever noticed how your wellbeing improves when you’re warmer? The sensation of comfort and relaxation activates the release of Oxytocin, a hormone that naturally enhances our mental state.
A rise in our body temperature can also help us cope better with stress. Professionals recommend taking warm baths to promote relaxation and resilience during tough times.
Ways older adults can socialise more during winter:
- Consider a befriending service: When older adults live alone, it can be harder to reach out to others. By connecting with a service like this, you can chat with new connections face-to-face or over the phone. If you’re able to do so, why not volunteer your time to your local befriending service and be that friendly connection for someone else?
- Get some fresh air: go for a walk with a friend or neighbour. Although winter may be cold, it can be a beautiful time to get out and explore
- Take up a new hobby: use your downtime in winter to do something new. Have a look to see if there are any groups or classes you can register for. This also presents a great way to connect with new people with similar interests
- Why not try a fitness class: there’s no better way to warm up than with exercise. Look for something within your abilities to release those endorphins and boost your mood
- Get involved with the community: visit your local community centre and find out how you can do your bit. There’s also many food banks and charity shops that are always looking for volunteers
Keeping toasty in your home
Staying warm inside your home doesn’t need to include considerable financial costs. There’s a plethora of reasonable alternatives to stay warm without costing a fortune.
Here’s some practical solutions to consider:
- Decorate your windows with thick curtains or blinds: this reduces the heat lost from your home and will keep the warm air inside
- Use rugs on hard floors: this will keep your feet your feet much warmer
- Get yourself some draught excluders: placing these under doors and windows will stop heat from escaping and cold air creeping in
- Wear plenty of layers: wearing multiple layers will increase your body temperature and help to retain it
- Invite friends and loved ones over: the more people in a room, the warmer it’ll be. Plus, as we mentioned earlier, being around others, warms us up internally
- Eat plenty: eating a diet full of nutrients will keep your health in check and help you maintain your internal temperature.
Don’t underestimate the connection between temperature and how warmth eases the feeling of isolation. Extensive research has showcased this to be true as well as the impact on mental wellbeing. With temperatures dropping this winter, feelings of loneliness tend to heighten. By maintaining a comfortable temperature, this can be combatted.
At the International Federation of Ageing, we strive for the ageing population to live their lives to the fullest.
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