Loneliness and isolation is sadly prevalent in today's society, here are some ways that you can help to end loneliness
Why is there so much Loneliness and Social Isolation in the United Kingdom?
Some of the main reasons for loneliness and isolation affecting so many people in our communities may be:
- that people are living for longer and often lose more of the people that were close to us
- when you have a health condition like dementia or cancer, sadly people often stay away for fear of doing or saying the wrong thing
- families being more split up across the country as they move to where the work is, or have moved because of university
- our lifestyles are quite busy nowadays with more demanding jobs, or we are working more hours to make ends meet
- a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety can prevent a person from being able to socialise
- mobility challenges can mean that someone is unable to get about as they might once have done
Loneliness can have a severely detrimental affect on our health and mental wellbeing. Social interaction is a huge part of being a human; we are social creatures. Of course there are days when you like being alone to your own thoughts. However, if this is a perpetual state of being, it starts to affect how you feel and even your physical health – just as stress does.
How many people are living with loneliness?
- 17% of older people are in contact with family, friends and neighbours less than once a week and 11% are in contact less than once a month (Victor et al, 2003)
- Over half (51%) of all people aged 75 and over live alone (ONS, 2010)
- Two fifths all older people (about 3.9 million) say the television is their main company (Age UK, 2014)
- 63% of adults aged 52 or over who have been widowed, and 51% of the same group who are separated or divorced report, feeling lonely some of the time or often (Beaumont, 2013)
- 59% of adults aged over 52 who report poor health say they feel lonely some of the time or often, compared to 21% who say they are in excellent health (Beaumont, 2013)
- A higher percentage of women than men report feeling lonely some of the time or often (Beaumont, 2013)
Why is it up to us to help end loneliness?
As a society, we seem to be drifting further apart – we are great when something high profile pulls us together, but loneliness is an unseen problem. It exists in your community.
We are all very involved in our own lives, work, family, and even technology seperates us to a degree; although we can more easily connect with people all over the world, we can tend to disconnect from what is immediately around us.
Reaching out to a neighbour, or someone in the community can be easy and here are some ways you can do this.
5 Ways to Reach out to Someone who is Lonely
1. Small talk
Whether you are at the local shop, the bus stop or getting petrol at the garage, you can take the opportunity to chat to someone. You can’t tell if someone is lonely – and it can affect people of any age (although it’s more prevelant in the eldery), and most people appreciate a bit of small talk. Some people migh blank you, this is generally because they might be uncomfortable with this interaction. That’s OK. Maybe inside they appreciated you acknowledging them and they may behave differently if you see them again.
2. Smiling and acknowledging people
A warm smile and a greeting as you pass someone in the street is such a simple but very effective way of reaching out. Again, as with small talk, you may not get a return greeting or smile but the person may have had their whole day turned around because you acknowledged them.
3. Get to know people who live alone
If you are aware of anyone living alone in your neighbourhood then you could knock on the door and invite them over for a cup of tea, or see if they need anything the next time you are going to the shops. Even if they are not too warm about you doing this, just let them know that you are there if they need anything, or would like to be friends.
4. Check your own relatives
You may have some relatives who live alone and may be lonely. Have you ever considered that or do you assume all is alright unless they say anything? It may be that nothing is said because they do not want you to worry or be a burdon. Asking things about their day can help you to get a better idea of what is a reality for them.
You can help by calling them regularly for a little catch up, helping them to get on the internet (if not already), or if they are near, pop over to visit or invite them over sometimes.
5. Teaching someone how to get connected
The internet can help people who are experiencing feelings of loneliness and isolation. It can seperate us, or it can bring us together. If you are a family who are living far apart from each other, teach your relative how to use Skype, or Facetime.
Perhaps someone in your community can be encouraged to get online, it can be a really great way of connecting to others, plus, if they have limited mobility, it means they can order shopping online during winter when it’s icy.
Hopefully that’s given you some ideas on how you can help to connect more with others, it will not take much of your time and can mean the world to someone, even if they may not show it at first.