At Leila & Geoffrey we support a range of artists, charities and creative businesses. We especially like to advocate social enterprises that make an impact. 

“Loneliness is hallmarked by an intense desire to bring the experience to a close; something which cannot be achieved by sheer willpower or getting out more, but only by developing intimate connections”. 

Olivia Laing, The Lonely City (“Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman published by Harper Collins).

Loneliness has become a modern epidemic, with the potential to cause serious damage to our physical and mental health. Studies have emerged that link loneliness to illnesses such as heart disease and cancer and some scientists believe it is as dangerous to our health as obesity or smoking.

A 2017 report published by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness – which aims to start a national conversation about the scale and impact of loneliness in the UK – shone a powerful light on the fact that more than 9 million people in the UK often or always feel lonely. 

Such is the concern about the prevalence of loneliness in the country that in January 2018, the Prime Minister announced not only her government’s plans to tackle the issues and combat isolation but also the appointment of a ministerial lead on loneliness. Tracey Crouch, the Minister for Sport and Civil Society leads a cross-government group that has responsibility for devising policies connected to loneliness and developing a national strategy. 

Feelings of alienation or sadness about being alone are indiscriminate and can affect everyone; whether single men and women, parents on Shared Parental Leave, tech-savvy millennials or the elderly. A study from the Office for National Statistics found that almost 10% of people aged 16 to 24 were “always or often” lonely – the highest proportion of any age group. 

Yet, across all the measures and categories in the report, research shows that people aged over 75 are “63 times less likely to report loneliness than those aged 16 to 24 years”. Age UK, the UK’s largest charity working with older people, highlights that “for a growing number of people, particularly those in later life, loneliness can define their lives and have a significant impact on their wellbeing”. 3.6 million older people in the UK live alone and 1.9 older people often feel ignored or invisible. 

Thankfully there are charities that tirelessly campaign to help counter feelings of solitude and desolation – like The Silver Line. It operates the only free, confidential and national helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people aged 55 and over. It is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Callers to the Helpline can receive help from a specially trained team who can:

  • Offer information, friendship and advice.
  • Link callers to local groups and services.
  • Offer regular friendship calls.
  • Protect and support older people who are suffering abuse and neglect.

In addition, the charity offers invaluable befriending services including the Silver Letters friendship scheme for those with hearing issues or who might just prefer the written word and Silver Line Telephone Friends, a scheme that matches volunteers with older people based on their interests and means that an older person can enjoy a regular weekly friendship telephone call. Silver Connects provides more intense support, advice and help by connecting people with their local services, such as finding lunch clubs and advising on financial concerns and Silver Circles offers group calls for people with shared interests. 

The charity – proud to be a member of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness – was founded by Dame Esther Rantzen DBE, who had written about her own feelings of isolation as a widow living alone for the first time at 71. She believes that older people keep families functioning, (one third of all working mothers depend on grandparents for childcare), that they form the bedrock of the charitable sector and that in the workplace their skills and experience make an invaluable contribution. The Silver Line believes that if older people become isolated and vulnerable, it is the nation’s responsibility to make them feel valued, to include them, empower them, and connect them back to their communities – and this is what they hope to achieve. 

They believe that human connection is key and for many of their c10.5k weekly callers, 90% live alone and the majority have no one else to speak to – this is an incredibly distressing statistic. Loneliness can cause serious damage, both physically and mentally and the gnawing feeling of isolation can affect anyone at any time. 

So, if you’re looking for a worthwhile volunteering opportunity get in touch with The Silver Line. One phone call and a ‘friendly chat’ could provide a lifeline – and make someone’s day just a little bit easier. As the late Jo Cox once said, “I will not live in a country where thousands of people are living lonely lives forgotten by the rest of us.” We agree.

WEBSITE: https://www.thesilverline.org.uk/

PHONE LINE: 0800 4 70 80 90

TWITTER: @TheSilverLineUK

DONATE: Text SILVER to 70660 to DONATE £10

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicola Greenbrook

Nicola Greenbrook

Nicola is a freelance music, fashion and lifestyle writer based in East London and has her own website, Material Whirl.