Loneliness can be defined as a subjective, unwelcome feeling of lack or loss of companionship. It happens when we have a mismatch between the quantity and quality of social relationships that we have, and those that we want (Perlman and Peplau, 1981).
There are different types of loneliness:
Emotional loneliness is felt when we miss the companionship of one particular person; often a spouse, sibling or best friend.
Social loneliness is experienced when we lack a wider social network or group of friends.
Loneliness can be a transient feeling that comes and goes. It can be situational; for example only occurring at certain times like Sundays, bank holidays or Christmas. Or loneliness can be chronic; this means someone feels lonely all or most of the time.
Loneliness is linked to social isolation but it is not the same thing. Isolation is an objective state whereby the number of contacts a person has can be counted. One way of describing this distinction is that you can be lonely in a crowded room, but you will not be socially isolated.
Can you believe that chronic loneliness is a big problem in communities across the country? While it can be felt by people of all ages, as we get older, risk factors that might lead to loneliness begin to increase.
Sunrise Senior Living has launched a Campaign to End Loneliness, and they aim to reduce loneliness in older age by creating the right policy and funding conditions for groups and individuals working to tackle the issue. We work with a wide range of organisations to seek the following change:
1. Higher quality, and more effective, services and activities
2. Better use of existing support, especially by the most lonely
3. More commissioning and/or development of services and activities targeting loneliness
So they asked me to invite some older people around and cook them a meal so I invited my parents (sorry Mum and Dad, you know you’re still spring chickens to me).
We were supposed to be having Beef Bourguinon but with kids and a few fussy eaters, I just did grilled steak served with hassle back potatoes, carrots and green beans.
Unfortunately, the meat was tough-it really is the luck of the draw and, although they ate it and said it was nice, do keep this in mind with people who may not have a full set of teeth. Thankfully my parents have all of their teeth but they did laugh that they had a sore jaw. I tried not to take it personally.
Desert was much more easy on the palate as I made Manchester Tart. It really is one of my favourite deserts and is definitely Hubster’s.
After eating we tried to have a game of Monopoly but Boo kept running off with the dog so we decided to put the kids to bed and have a game another time.
I have joked a bit in this post but loneliness is no joke. How would you feel if it was you? Or your parents?
The truth is, it could be. Over one in ten older people said they felt cut off from society and a miserable 41 per cent of people interviewed by Sunrise Senior Living said their TV or pet were their main form of company.
How sad is that? Are we really all too busy to see the lonely people in our street, in our shopping centre or in our churches?
Reach out to the people in your community and really make a difference.
Thankfully, my parents have these two monkeys to keep them occupied but not everyone is so lucky.
Find more out about the campaign here.
* This is a collaborative post.