Canva Adults Hands Holding

All the lonely people

When I was a teacher, there was a poem I quoted in assembly that included the line ‘whenever you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together’. It was good advice then and I think it still is. When we are doing something for the first time, or entering a challenging environment, it’s good to do it with others.

Last month my father died and I helped make arrangements for his funeral. It was not easy but it was made more bearable because all five siblings shared the experience together. Everyone cooperated, cared and liaised in order to give Dad the best possible send-off. It was amazing how much strength we gained by journeying through the difficult experience together.

Unfortunately, there are many people who don’t have anyone to share experiences with, no family or friends. 9 million people in our country consider the television their main form of company. In Norfolk alone, there are an estimated 38,000 lonely people aged 65+. And there are many more, of all ages, who are lonely through isolation caused by physical or mental health challenges. We are told that loneliness can be more harmful to our health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It is associated with an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke; it can increase the risk of premature death by 30%.*

Thankfully there are many organisations determined to improve the situation. One, which I recently spent time with, is Community Chaplaincy - Norfolk. They provide mentors to befriend prisoners and then meet them at the prison gate on their day of release. They offer support for as long as it takes to be back on their feet and independent. Unfortunately, there aren't enough mentors and, without this kind of support, re-offending is common. (Presently, all that the state has to provide for an ex-offender leaving prison is a £46 grant, nothing else, no employment, no housing and no mentors. It is hardly surprising re-offending is high!)

Loneliness and isolation are not new problems. They have been with us since the beginning of time. So have the solutions. In the Bible, Ecclesiastes 4 verse 12 says, ‘Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.’

We are stronger together and together we can build a stronger community. In this newsletter I have drawn together some of the organisations and projects, both local and national, that are addressing loneliness and isolation. I hope you find them useful.


*Sources: Norfolk County Council, Norfolk Public Health, Campaign to End Loneliness, Let's Talk Loneliness

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4 verse 12