The Silence of Loneliness: What does it take to help?

In a road somewhere in the UK, someone in later years has passed away alone at the house where they had lived happily for many years. New residents are bound to take their place but from time to time costly renovations are required to make the house habitable enough for any potential owners to move in. However, switch it around and consider who the former resident may have been, frequently a sad tale, a tale told of someone lonely isolated from the community, invisible to the outside world. Imagine that their family have moved away long ago and friends long since deceased. Only when the outside world has entered an empty shell of a home, the former tenant receives the identity they had so long deserved. Sadly, people with a diverse range of backgrounds are lonely after the age of 60 when maybe the last years of such a life are the unhappiest due to physical disability, ill-health or some form of mental health problems associated with poverty – a person struggling to reach out to the world beyond the front door. 

Around Essex throughout the next 20 years, there are signs the numbers requiring care after 60 will rise to a staggering 131,200. Moreover the likelihood 10 percent of older people will encounter loneliness over long periods of time. Referring to the statistics obtained from 2015 concerning levels of isolation throughout Essex, the Tendring coast revealed a demographic more vulnerable to loneliness than anywhere else.

For an older person without access to social connections, those agencies who are best able to support them will ultimately exist oblivious to their plight. The health risks of prolonged loneliness are well known affecting physical and mental health i.e. dementia and depression. Various assumptions do arise that a particular older person automatically has close family ties, friends who will rally round to help but should not necessarily be relied upon in all cases where it is common knowledge an elderly neighbour is stuck indoors. 

After a certain age, one may require outside intervention to help maintain independence until a time when the care sector must provide solutions. Volunteers, home help and the local community at large are extremely useful for passing on information about the most vulnerable. It also falls upon the local councils to reduce the need for 24 hour supervision by intervening in a timely way to prevent a slow decline into neglect.

Unfortunately, in practice there are a silent few living in poor conditions or without recourse to speak with someone familiar from one day to the next. Some resort to finding company with their pets or the odd friendly neighbour passing by. Similarly, technology can allow correspondence with loved ones from the use of e-mail and social media. So it seems a shame those who had enjoyed a full and exciting life with happy memories, feel compelled to exist with the television running on all day in many cases solely to reduce the bite of depression.

We can’t be everywhere at once but there are things we can do to improve awareness so that no single person is struggling alone as they slip under the radar. 

  • Listen to people’s stories when you are out and about. Many have had an exciting life and want to share it with you. Feel good about raising a smile possibly making someone’s day.
  • Create opportunities that build connection by encouraging attendance at local friendship groups, clubs and societies around the borough. See links below.
  • Be a good neighbour and check in on someone you know is vulnerable. Ask yourself, do they have everything they need to be comfortable? 
  • Alternatively volunteer to become a befriender at Age Concern Colchester or Clacton. You can connect with someone with like minded interests to make a real difference through companionship. See links below.
Essex Isolation Map

Are you a keen gardener or a board game player? Find a new pal through befriending and share top times. The Age Concern Colchester team will connect you to someone with similar interests: Befriending and Friendhip

Life’s later years are particularly problematic for many in our community like from bereavement after a spouse has passed away or for those with children living too far away to visit regularly. Having a friendship group or club to attend will help provide companionship. The Veranda offers the following activities for those willing to come along. We do a nice cup of coffee too: Veranda Full Timetable

You can find our events page here: Events Archive Page