2020 has left us with many legacies as we’ve coped with a set of circumstances none of us would have imagined. As we look to the light provided by new vaccines and as we approach a new year, there is yet another nasty legacy sting in the tail of 2020 – a rise in feelings of loneliness.
Research from Age UK has shown that this Christmas is set to be the loneliest yet for older people. Over 160,000 people over the age of 65 will suffer from feeling lonely this festive season, with nearly 60% of them fearing that they won’t see any family and friends. Those are heartbreaking numbers, even one person feeling like this is one too many.
Our communities can carry another more positive legacy from 2020. The Age UK research also highlighted that over 100,000 older people were helped to get through the pandemic by the kindness of strangers. The simple act of checking on people made a life-enhancing difference for so many, we can never know for sure, but it’s probably safe to assume that in some instances, it was life-saving.
Of course, loneliness and isolation don’t discriminate; young people are also affected. The Office of National statistics were able to point out that, during the first month of the pandemic, 7. 4 million people, across the nations of the UK said that their wellbeing was affected through feeling isolated.
We all knew that these restrictions were essential to protect lives, but the collateral effect was, as predicted, substantial. Recently, we have become more aware of a problem that has existed for some time but rarely brought into public debate. Work undertaken for the charities MIND and Mental Health UK confirmed that young people are particularly affected by loneliness.
During the pandemic almost half of 18-24-year-olds experienced, and those aged 25-34 are twice – yes twice – as likely to be lonely at Christmas than older people. That’s a lot of lonely people out there feeling isolated.
While we cannot visit indoors, there are many other ways we can help people feel less isolated. Given that a third of people are too embarrassed to admit that they are lonely, it is small acts that make a difference; it might be a note through the door or a phone call to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Simple offers of contact, help with shopping, a chat a few steps back from the doorstep could mean a big deal to reassure folk that they are valued and to feel a little less alone.
If you need to talk to someone over the festive period, or any other time, the below contacts offer free and non-judgemental help;
MikeysLine 01463 729000
Breathing Space 0800 83 85 87
Samaritans 116 123
Mind 0300 123 3393
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