84 year old father bored, no friends, depressed

He lives almost 3 hours away so all I can do most of the time is ring him. I visit once a month.When I do he is always saying how depressed he is with no friends and nothing to do, He moved from somewhere else 2 hours or so away to be near my brother, who only has time to see him for a few hours every fortnight.
He won’t try any of the hobbies I’ve suggested. Why?
He won’t take dogs belonging to ill people for walks, or visit those less fortunate for tea or do any volunteer work. Why?
He won’t even do man shed.
I get the impression he doesn’t want to socialise with any women over the age of 75,
His is very mobile and his brain works fine. He was widowed 2 years ago.
He complains about waking up at night, I keep saying he should put soothing music on at night to help him to get back to sleep at night. He won’t try this technique which works for me. Why?
He can’t cope with being on his own. I was on my own until the age of 40 with parents living a 9 hour flight away and managed so why can’t he.
They spent the last 25 years sunning themselves on a beach abroad so I couldn’t visit them and now my life is suddenly supposed to revolve around Dad and give up my own life. I want to still be doing energetic things with my life while I’m young enough (I’m 50)
Dad want’s lots of sympathy. I am struggling with the empathy bit. I have no kids to look after me when I am old! Dad never looked after his parents. Phone calls to him are usually grim as he likes to go on about how awful life is.

Hi Carolyn,
Harsh though it sounds, you can’t make your Dad be happy nor be responsible for how happy he feels.

You are being supportive by ringing him and visiting him and have made lots of suggestions, of what he could do. It is his decision not to follow up on your ideas.

My only suggestions are does he like dancing? Men are in short supply at tea dances etc My friend’s Dad is never short of partners at ballroom dancing. Also, do you think he needs grief counselling?


Hi Caroline

I can’t offer much support other than saying I hear you! My situation is somewhat similar to yours. My dad is 83 in a couple of months and my mum died two years ago (although they lived separately they still saw each other regularly). Like your dad, mine found himself without any friends or social life after she’d died and just went to pieces. Like your dad, as the youngest child in the family mine didn’t have to care for his parents, and I have no children myself. My parents both lived about 3 hours away, and after my mum died, my brother and I were trying to visit regularly - I was going up every weekend for the first 7 months to check my mum’s house every week before it was sold. Despite trying to go up as often as we could it became clear my dad just wasn’t coping on his own.

Reading your message, it sounds like there is some hurt and resentment there for your parents choosing to live abroad whilst you were younger. Is this something you have discussed with your dad?

I think perhaps being on your own when you are old is harder than when you are young. Certainly, I know for my dad, he has seen all his siblings die and his wife die, and I think that is a huge thing to deal with emotionally. Balanced with that, we cannot see ourselves as responsible for someone else’s happiness. I agree it can be hugely frustrating when people don’t seem to be able to help themselves - how can older people be so lonely when there are so many things out there for them to do?!

Your dad is fortunate in being physically and cognitively fit. Is this something that he is aware he will lose if he doesn’t change his outlook on life? Has he spoken to his doctor about his depression? Would he consider therapy?

If he doesn’t want to be alone and wants female companionship has he considered a dating agency?

Could you put in place ground rules for your phone calls and visits? My brother would phone my dad once a week and get my dad to keep a note over the week of things he could talk about in their phone calls.


Your dad has had a fortunate, selfish existence, apparently seldom thinking of you, so now he must take the consequences.

Stand firm, work out when you can visit, and put your answerphone on.

Have you tried getting in touch with one of the agencies for the elderly - such as Age UK - in his area? They have volunteers who visit lonely older people, in some places. There’s no guarantee of course, that they will have one available or even that your dad will accept their help but they might be able to suggest other activities that he could do?

Sorry I can’t be more help. You are obviously worried about him, or you wouldn’t have posted.

Has he spoken to his GP about how he’s feeling? Again, sometimes (depending on how switched on they are!) GPs can suggest local organisations who might be able to help.

He’s a lucky man, in many ways, if he’s still got all his faculties. Most activity groups for the elderly are full of women and they’re desperate for men! ( I know because I’m involved in one, as a volunteer), so if he could be persuaded to try one or two, he’d probably be welcomed with open arms. It could make all the difference to him! Would he be interested in playing the ukelele? (lots of groups doing that now and you don’t need to be particularly musical!) or crown green bowls?

Don’t give up! And let us know if things change for the better. Good luck x

Me again! Re. the grim phone calls, you could try saying something like “Dad, if you’re just going to be miserable when I ring you, I’m not really going to feel like calling you very much. All you’ve done since we started speaking is to moan. Do you think, when I phone you next week, you could try to be a bit more positive and try to tell me about something good or interesting that’s happened to you?”
Now, I don’t know how your dad would react to that. He might be inclined to slam the phone down but it might be worth a try? It might make him think twice, perhaps, before he just spends the whole call moaning?

It sounds like hes very depressed, would he go to the G.P? he could discuss anti depressants and counselling.
I’d say to him , that I cant listen to him moaning all the time as its very draining and I would go through with him again the list of possible things to do.
Is there a luncheon club near you or an elderly persons community centre? If so I’d mention it and try to get him to ring up.

If he absolutely wont do anything to help himself then I would leave him to it and just speak for 2 minutes once a week and that’s it. You cant force him and why should he wreck your life now with moaning? Its not fair, theres only him that can do something about his current situation.


You’re Dad sounds very depressed to me and you have obviously been lucky enough not to have experienced what that’s like in someone close to you. It’s probably the depression that’s stopping him taking up any of your suggestions. Ask him if he wants to feel better and if he does tell him he needs to talk to a doctor about how he’s feeling as I don’t think he’s going to get better alone. Explain to him that much better treatment is available nowadays and there is far less stigma. A bit of tough love - phoning for a very short time if he wallows in self pity but talking longer if he’s more positive and making suggestions about dating agencies or tea dances etc which seem to address his main issue better than most of the suggestions. Also singing is a good way of meeting women as in most places there is a shortage of male voices. Wales excluded! How do you feel about him meeting women? It must be difficult to contemplate but is only natural. What about a cookery course? Having something nice to eat at the end of it, especially if you eat it as a group meal at the end of it might help lift his mood.

Is he actually capable of organising these activities for himself? He might be from the generation whose wives did it all for them and really not have a clue where to start and is using his negativity to cover up.

Anyhow there are a range of options in the various posts but you really need to address why he won’t engage to make progress. Also a stern word with your brother wouldn’t go amiss, especially if he encouraged your Dad to move to be near him.

You mention he moved recently. I moved area about ten years ago and it does take some time to settle in to a new area and it is hard even if you have a group of potential friends already lined up. It’s still not the same as being in familiar surroundings with familiar people. It’s hard to remember how difficult it is if you haven’t done it recently.

If he doesn’t like living alone perhaps he should look into some type of sheltered housing or other retirement community.

I’d like to thank everyone for their very kind and helpful responses.
I will again suggest singing. He’s convinced he can’t sing but he’s not tone deaf. I didn’t know there was a shortage of male singers. I’ve suggested dancing before but back then he had a bad hip. Now he has a new hip he has less of an excuse.
He did see the doctor over a year ago who prescribed antidepressants but they affected his memory so he stopped taking them.
I visited him yesterday on a day trip and dropped off an MP3 player with a built in speaker that I’d downloaded some “sleeping” music onto. I do hope he uses it as that took me ages to sort out. He now plays bowls but always says he dislikes it. All he wants to do is go running again?!! I suggested cooking last year : he has no interest.
Yesterday I suggested he tries cognitive behavioural therapy after he said he felt there was no point in living.
I’ve found he is less miserable outdoors in public, but he started complaining once back in his flat. At least I found an excuse to get an earlier train home! He does live in sheltered housing but finds the single women too old (old as him). Isn’t that annoying?
Typical male thing.
I’ve been watching Ricky Jervaise “the life after”. I feel like his brother in Law when he says “I’m so tired with trying to make you happy”

Old thread, locked usual reasons.