GUEST BLOG: Loneliness – the hidden epidemic that’s crushing our communities
Sevenoaks resident Lindsey Nathan is the founder of Close to Hand – www.closetohand.co.uk – an online service that helps connect senior members of our community with local people who can offer help and companionship. Here, she explores the subject of loneliness and the importance of community spirit
Loneliness – the hidden epidemic that’s crushing our communities
An ageing population is partly responsible for more lonely people than ever before. According to Age UK, there are 1.2 million chronically lonely older people in the UK. By that measure it’s likely we all know or care about someone who feels lonely.
Loneliness strips you of confidence, a purpose and reasons to smile. Research shows that its crippling effects are not only detrimental to our mental wellbeing but to our physical health too. In fact, being lonely can be as damaging to us as obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.
Breaking the silent taboo
We are all living increasingly busy lives and it’s difficult for many to find the time to visit older relatives or call in on an elderly neighbour. Perhaps take time to check in on a senior member of your community, because it’s unlikely they’ll admit to feeling lonely. It can be one of the hardest subjects to raise, as feelings of loneliness bring shame – so very counter to the sociable, populated lives we’re all under pressure to lead.
Just imagine if the key to improving the health and wellbeing of the older generation was as simple as offering a smile, a friendly face and somebody to talk to. It’s not such a crazy idea – human interaction as a cure.
Taken from an evolutionary point of view, our reliance on social groups has ensured our survival as a species. Is it not the case then that loneliness is effectively a signal to connect with others, in the same way hunger is a signal we need to eat?
Young people feel lonely too
Loneliness isn’t the reserve of those aged over 65, as we’re vulnerable to feeling lonely at any point in our lives. A new study out last year by ChannelMum.com revealed that a staggering 70% of mums with dependent children say their generation is the loneliest ever.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, 18-34 year-olds are more likely to feel lonely more often, to worry about feeling alone, and to feel depressed because of loneliness than those over 55.
Develop meaningful relationships
Loneliness is not about the amount of time we spend with other people but about the perceived quality of the relationships that we build. We all understand how you can be in a crowded room full of people and still feel lonely.
Take time to stop, to listen (to really listen) and to make a connection – the benefits of that simple act can be far reaching and potentially contagious.
Close to Hand is an online service connecting senior members of our community with local people who can lend a helping hand and offer companionship. It’s a service aimed at promoting independence and building community spirit, as well as providing meaningful, flexible work for locals.