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Loneliness and dementia

Loneliness is a universal human experience that can affect anyone, regardless of age or background. But it is a sad reality that loneliness can both increase our risk of dementia, and be increased by dementia. But both health and quality of life for older people with dementia can be improved by reducing loneliness.

A recent publication by the Alzheimer's Society shows that 38% of people with dementia say that they are lonely, with a further 12% reporting they do not know if they are lonely. More than two-thirds (70%) of people with dementia have stopped doing things that they used to do after diagnosis.

Some common experiences of older age could make you more likely to feel lonely, such as:

  • retirement

  • health problems that make it harder to get out and see others

  • hearing or sight loss

  • caring responsibilities

  • the loss of someone close.

You may also feel lonely if:

  • you’re living on a low income and can’t afford to socialise as much as you’d like

  • your adult children have moved away

  • you’ve lost touch with friends or family

  • you’re shy or suffer from social anxiety

  • you live alone.

The Alzheimer's Society's report highlights that more than two-thirds (70%) of individuals with dementia have curtailed activities they once enjoyed after their diagnosis. This withdrawal from cherished activities can contribute to feelings of loneliness, especially when combined with other factors like a loss of confidence, fear of confusion or getting lost, mobility issues, and the absence of companionship during activities.

The emotional toll of loneliness is not to be underestimated. People living with dementia who experience loneliness might find themselves caught in a vicious cycle. Loneliness can sap motivation, making individuals less inclined to engage in activities or social interactions, deepening their sense of isolation.

Here are a few things that people with dementia can do to help manage loneliness when living alone:

Try to do things even if you don’t feel like it. Loneliness can make you feel less like doing things, which can make you feel more isolated. So, trying to engage in activities is really important. You could try group activities such as indoor gardening, visual art discussions, or physical exercise groups, which can benefit brain health at the same time as reducing loneliness. There are lots of local charities and organisations with groups specifically designed for people with dementia and their carers. Individual activities such as having a pet or one-on-one video calls with family members may also help you feel connected.

Exercise has been proven to have a positive impact on mental health. Engaging in physical activities, even simple ones like gardening or short walks, can release endorphins and brighten your mood.

Talking about loneliness is really important too. Share your emotions with friends, family, or support groups. Their understanding and companionship can make a world of difference. If you are finding everything too much, try talking to your GP. They should be able to offer guidance and may refer you to a specialist for counselling or 'talking therapy'. Helplines, such as the Alzheimer's Society's support line, are also available to offer guidance and advice: 0333 150 3456.


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