Getting older is something we’re all doing, whether we realise it or not and feeling lonely is something we all experience, whether we want to admit it or not. So why, I wonder, is ageing only talked about for the ‘old’ and loneliness a silent elephant in the room?
Lonely isn’t limited to old, and old doesn’t automatically mean lonely, yet the two become so tangled up into an assumptions-loaded stereotype about ageing.
Why? Well, we know that factors which can lead to loneliness are more frequent in older people; bereavement and ill health being the prime examples and we know the feelings of loneliness and isolation are higher in older age groups so it kind of makes sense.
But the unfortunate consequence of this association between older age and loneliness is that it has confined the discourse on ageing to the older, and has made older age and loneliness seem like alien characteristics, experienced only by a select group,
‘Old’ is not something you one day become and lonely is not something you are, or are not; rather we all exist on the continuum of age and isolation and therefore should see neither feature as a barrier to our connections with other people.
Now we find ourselves in a society where loneliness and isolation are monumental challenges and where the problem of loneliness and isolation for older people is vast.
Without action, without meaningful heartfelt intervention, the cycle will perpetuate and the link between age and isolation will grow greater.
Fortunately, every one of us, old and young, has an incentive and the capacity to be a part of changing the face of ageing and isolation in Sheffield.
The incentive? We’re all ageing and so are our friends and families so if not through altruism and care for others we should want this change for ourselves and for our futures.
And the capacity? It’s simple; we can all be part of reducing loneliness and isolation for older people and breaking the association between age and isolation by taking small and simple actions to reduce loneliness and isolation within our families and our communities.
So why not start today?
Invite someone who is might otherwise be alone round for dinner, catch the moment in a photo and share it with us to encourage other people to do the same.
Be a part of the beginning to the end of loneliness #SundayDinnerSelfie #AgeBetterSheff