Came across this today, and thought it worth mentioning-
Here are one or two highlights from the site-
- 12% of older people feel trapped in their own home2
- 6% of older people leave their house once a week or less3
- Nearly 200,000 older people in the UK don’t get help to get out of their house or flat4
- 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 month5
- Over half (51%) of all people aged 75 and over live alone6
- 36% of people aged 65 and over in the UK feel out of touch with the pace of modern life and 9% say they feel cut off from society7
- Half of all older people (about 5 million) say the television is their main company8
Loneliness can be crippling. Some of the health implications are mentioned here.
Researchers tend to talk about different kinds of loneliness- chronic or situational loneliness and social or emotional loneliness. Emotional loneliness is due to the lack of a significant other, while social loneliness is about lacking connections in a wider circle of friends.
Interestingly, men tend to define loneliness more by the lack of a close personal relationship/life partner, whereas women are more likely to talk about not being part of a network of friends.
It set me thinking again about what we might do about this…
I think one thing we might do is look around us, and be more deliberate about sharing lives with older generations. By this I do not mean merely ‘visiting’ or offering assistance in a patronising kind of way. It rarely works as a way of reducing loneliness- rather it might increase alienation and create dependency. This also may well not be sustainable, and we end up letting people down.
But perhaps there are other ways. I do not mean to suggest that we have got this all sorted, but here is one story of hope that might suggest an alternative-
Our kids are blessed with 4 different arrangements of Grandparents- due to the breakdown of marriages and various re formed family situations. But they are all at a distance.
So we have an adopted Scottish Granny.
Our dear Netta has just gone home after looking after William all day- he has been feeling ill, and so was off school. While she was here, she mended a chair cover, and sewed up some holes in clothing. Sometimes it feels like we are exploiting her, but I know too that it gives her such a lot of pleasure to be helpful in these ways…
We are able to help her out with some little household tasks although she hates asking, so it is always better to try to anticipate them if we can. Michaela is good at keeping in touch too, which is something I am rubbish at- being a hater of the telephone at the best of times.
Netta’s husband died around 10 ago- we never knew him, but he must have been a special man. He left a terrible void. We have become very fond of Netta’s grown up daughter too- who lives over the water, and gets over whenever she can.
What we have found is that the important thing is relationship. Lives shared. Families open and extending themselves to one another.
We humans are social animals. But we are all different, so there will need to be lots of different solutions- lots of different ways of connecting one with the other.
And loneliness is not inevitable- it is cultural. So let us change the culture.