The events of this year make Loneliness Awareness Week more relevant than ever. With social distancing still in force, many of us will have been separated from family or friends over recent months. The week provides an opportunity to think about how the issue affects us all, and how we can strengthen community connections.
Being lonely is something that anyone can feel – regardless of age or how many people are in your life. In fact, the age group that now reports the highest levels of loneliness are those aged between 16 – 24. Certain life events can also act as triggers, such as leaving home, starting university, becoming a parent, the end of a relationship or bereavement.
It’s important that we talk openly and honestly about it in a way that doesn’t make people feel uncomfortable. For example, by talking about ‘admitting’ or ‘suffering’ from loneliness can make people feel that there is something wrong with them, when it’s a normal part of life.
Building connections is a good way to tackle loneliness, and with the recent high levels of community involvement and volunteering, hopefully this is something that will increase in the future. Despite current restrictions, we can all take simple steps such as sending a letter or postcard to a friend, phoning a neighbour who is self-isolating, or even having a video call while watching a film or taking part in a quiz.
Locally there are specific organisations that run befriending services, which are great when face-to-face meetings are limited. Community360 runs services for people of all ages, you can get in touch by email: community 360 or call 01206 505250. Age Concern Colchester & NE Essex cater for older residents, you can find out more about their services online: Age Concern or call 01206 368420. You can also volunteer for these organisations, which is a great way to make connections with new people in the community.
Addressing issues such as loneliness is an important part of the Health & Wellbeing Working Group’s mission, and we are keen to hear your ideas on how we can all improve community connections, ranging from young people through families to older residents. Get in touch with the working group’s chair (email@example.com) and keep an eye on The Mylander, this website and the council Facebook page for updates.