Monday, February 17, 2014

Loneliness - the new Taboo

Guardian UK
"Loneliness can be twice as unhealthy as obesity, according to researchers who found that feelings of isolation can have a devastating impact on older people.
The scientists tracked more than 2,000 people aged 50 and over and found that the loneliest were nearly twice as likely to die during the six-year study than the least lonely.
Compared with the average person in the study, those who reported being lonely had a 14% greater risk of dying. The figure means that loneliness has around twice the impact on an early death as obesity. Poverty increased the risk of an early death by 19%.
The findings point to a coming crisis as the population ages and people increasingly live alone or far from their families. A study of loneliness in older Britons in 2012 found that more than a fifth felt lonely all the time, and a quarter became more lonely over five years. Half of those who took part in the survey said their loneliness was worse at weekends, and three-quarters suffered more at night." Guardian UK
I never thought I should ever be lonely. I was wrong. When I was 59 and my husband died I found out. Living alone if not chosen is difficult and challenging and I for one have not yet any answers.

One gets used to it. One has to but it is not easy. One makes the best of it but does it have to be so ....well..... lonely?

I am lucky. I have wonderful friends who have families but on occasions I still feel lonely. My family lives two islands away and because of my inability to fly could be on the moon. They come and visit and then go. Flying anywhere is expensive.

But does it have to be like this? The current social attitude is that it is up to the lonely person to make the effort. It is up to them to go out and make new friends who will invite them to share Xmas and public holidays. In reality it does not work like this. Christmas these day means family only regardless of the Christian  meaning, No  room at the Inn and Family only applies.

Sometimes illness and circumstances mean it is not possible for a lonely person to go out. Going out to places costs money and even then clubs close over Xmas as the fortunate go back to their families.

Obviously lonely people must make an effort but so do those too who are socially more privileged. Invite your widowed neighbour in for coffee and would it hurt to have one more guest at Xmas Dinner? Sharing is what Xmas used to be about.

On the whole I am not lonely. I have projects that fill my life. I love life as it is so interesting but I have computer skills and creative ideas and the money to do it and at the moment my health. Many have not but on some occasions mainly during December I do feel alone.

In the past my friends have not appreciated how I felt but this year they have as I have been a bit more vocal on the subject. Even though they may not like it they know now how I feel. To their credit they have taken it well, whether the message has sunk in I do not know but I do know that loneliness is a social problem that can only be solved socially.

One thing everyone can do is to see that their single neighbour is not left out on Xmas Day. Do the right thing and invite them to enjoy Xmas with you. Never leave a single person alone on Xmas Day if you can help it. Everyone deserves to feel wanted. It is up to you to make the invite. Don't wait for others. The lonely/single cannot ask for if she or he does the rejection is horrendous.

Lastly a true friend is the one who invites you to Xmas Dinner, all others are acquaintances. This is now my test for a new friend and should be yours too.


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