It’s Saturday afternoon. I’m sat in a local café typing this. I’m self-employed. Sitting in my office working at home, I can sometimes feel lonely and isolated. So I come here to be around other people. There is a mixed demographic here; all ages and groupings. Out of 18 tables that are occupied, 8 of them – that’s nearly half – are people on their own, like me. I wonder how many of them are lonely or feeling isolated in their everyday lives.
A study by The Co-op and the British Red Cross reveals over 9 million people in the UK across all adult ages – more than the population of London – are either always or often lonely.
Loneliness doesn’t only affect one group in society; it affects lots of groups and lots of individual people. This is a hidden epidemic that is, thankfully, becoming more open and transparent. Loneliness and social isolation can have a huge negative impact on both our physical and mental health.
What can we do about it?
Here are 3 simple ideas that you can implement today:
Start a conversation
The Jo Cox Loneliness Commission was launched in January 2017. It is starting a national campaign about the scale and impact of loneliness across the UK. Jo Cox herself put it perfectly:
“Young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate…it is something many of us could easily help with. Looking in on a neighbour, visiting an elderly relative or making that call or visit we’ve been promising to a friend we haven’t seen in a long time.”
Be part of the solution by pledging to start a conversation today. For more ideas and resources, see also The Campaign to Reduce Loneliness.
Give someone a hug
Hugging provides a range of benefits to improve health and wellbeing. In fact, it can even help to cure the common cold, as research from Carnegie Mellon University in the US shows.
Would you give a stranger in the street a hug? Check out this YouTube clip to see how it’s done:
Deliver a project to reduce loneliness and social isolation
Ok, so you might not be able to do this today – it may take some planning – but is it a need that you have identified for the people you work with? Is it something you would love to tackle in your area? Norden Farm Centre for the Arts in Maidenhead is doing just this. Their SocialArts project aims to reduce loneliness and social isolation amongst older people through a series of creative arts workshops. It is funded by The Rothschild Foundation with delivery for two years (2017-18) followed by a symposium in 2019 to share the results.
Extremely positive outcomes are evident straight away from the first 5 sessions of delivery:
Nearly one third (31%) of the participants reported being at the extremely lonely / isolated end of the scale. By the end of Term One, the picture had changed completely with ZERO participants feeling extremely lonely / isolated. In contrast, the number of participants at the opposite end of the scale (Not at all lonely / isolated) had more than doubled to 69%. That is, by the end of the first term of delivery, more than two thirds of the participants had markedly improved in terms of their feelings of loneliness / social isolation.
I am thrilled to be working as the external evaluator for the Norden Farm SocialArts project. The project offers a range of art subjects – screen printing, stained glass painting, sculpture, singing and animation, amongst others. It is unique as there is wraparound provision, including free transport for those who need it plus a communal lunch after the art workshops, held in the wonderful café at Norden Farm.
I have visited the project in person and can testify to the fantastic work they are doing. The art work they are producing is amazing – see picture – and more than that, the atmosphere is friendly and uplifting, which is the whole point of the exercise, of course!
If you are thinking of delivering a project to combat social isolation and would welcome some support with your project planning, or you would like to raise funds to support your work, please contact Catherine to arrange a no-obligation, friendly chat: