Start a Conversation this Christmas
Most people will experience loneliness at some point in their lives. Loneliness affects everyone, but due to ill-health and bereavement, older people can feel the pain of loneliness more acutely than most.
Over 9 million people in the UK report they are constantly lonely, or experience loneliness often. There are many different factors that may cause loneliness, and without the right attention at the right time, it can go from a temporary feeling to a chronic issue and contribute to poor mental and physical health. Life transitions are often a key cause of loneliness. Whether it is a young teenager starting at a new school, an individual going through a divorce or an older person who has just lost their partner, big changes to lifestyle can cause an individual to go into their shell, increasing their chances of being lonely.
Recognising Loneliness as a chronic issue in the UK, the late Jo Cox MP established a cross-party initiative called the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission, of which 15 major charities including Age UK, British Red Cross and The Silver Line UK are taking part. The Commission aimed ‘not simply to highlight the problem, but more importantly to act as a call to action. With the message ‘Start a Conversation’ about loneliness, and with each other. The Commission has got people talking at all levels – whether chatting to a neighbour, visiting an old friend, or just making time for the people they meet. After a year of research and community-building activities it will close on the 15th of December.
Bereavement is a prevalent cause of isolation that affects everyone, but in particular the older generation. Chronic loneliness can often set in when an individual loses close friends and partners who they have gone through their entire life with, leaving them with no one to spend time with on a daily basis. This leads to a vicious cycle where an individual has next-to-no contact with the outside world, therefore they cannot meet new people and make new friends and feel increasingly isolated from society. Charities such as Sue Ryder launched their #ConnectingThread campaign, which is on online community to provide people going through a difficult time with support – the campaign has provided people with a safe place to find practical advice, and an opportunity to share what they’re going through.
Poor health is another factor which can be experienced at any age and one that limits people’s contact with society. It’s an unfortunate fact that many elderly individuals are more prone to suffering from poor health, making it difficult for them to get around town or even their own home. Half a million people over 60 usually spend their day alone. In July 2015, Co-op and British Red Cross launched an innovative partnership to tackle this. The partnership has raised £6 million to fund new Red Cross services, helping over 12,500 people connect with their local communities by providing up to 12 weeks of practical support, helping finding activities and groups to join.
The Silver Line UK is the only national, free and confidential helpline for older people that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 68% of callers contact The Silver Line because they feel lonely or isolated, 90% live alone, and 54% say they have no one else to speak to. The charity is doing great ground work in providing older people with practical support, or simply giving them someone to have a chat with. Last Christmas, The Silver Line say they were unable to answer 5,000 calls due to huge demand. It costs £5 to answer a call. So this year, we at 72Point have partnered with The Silver Line to help them answer every single one.
We pride ourselves on being conversation starters. This Christmas we will launch our #StartAConversation campaign, urging people to talk about issues of loneliness, and more importantly – talk to each other.
We’ll be launching a new video on Friday the 24th of November to help The Silver Line start conversations that count this Christmas.