“Loneliness is about finding a landing-place, or not, and knowing that, whatever you do, you can go back there. The opposite of loneliness isn’t company, it’s return. A place to return.”

– Jeanette Winterson, The Stone Gods

Many of you reading this blog will be committed to ensuring that older people are not feeling alone, at risk of isolation, or in the grip of loneliness itself. But like we all – as individuals – need a place to return to, we also believe organisations supporting people need a landing-place; somewhere to connect and learn with others that share their aims and goals.

Last week, the Campaign to End Loneliness hosted its first-ever Learning Network Conference. Our 90 attendees came from charities and communities, local government and private businesses, older people forums and research. Like the 650+ members of our Learning Network they ranged in size, from small neighbourhood schemes – supporting just a few older people – to national charities with multiple services and thousands of volunteers.

We wanted this conference to celebrate the work of our Learning Network, as well as be an opportunity for members to rejuvenate and reconnect with what else is going on across the UK. We planned an agenda based around learning from both research and practice, space to connect with likeminded organisations and sought to inspire further action to combat loneliness in older age.

If you want to revisit what you learnt on the day – or if you weren’t able to join us – fear not! We have presentation slides, event handbooks, delegate lists and videos to share and have already begun to plan events for 2015.

Highlights from the Inaugural Learning Network Conference – 17 November 2014 from Campaign to End Loneliness on Vimeo.

Learning about stereotypes and attitudes

Professor Christina Victor, from Brunel University, gave our keynote presentation and presented on new research into the experience of loneliness across the life-course. Download her presentation slides and watch the film below to hear how stereotypes about older age influence our risk of experiencing loneliness in later life and how loneliness can change depending on the season.

What do older people say about loneliness?

When we experience loneliness, it will be caused by a range of reasons, personal experiences and circumstances. At our conference, we heard from four older people who talked about the way loneliness can be influenced by:

Listen to their stories by clicking on the topics above. You can also read some of the suggestions that delegates came up with during the “Loneliness Challenges” discussion here and presentations from four charity experts here.

A place to return to?

Amazing things can happen from conversations at events –taking time out of our every day that allows these amazing things to happen, that allows our brains to connect, and ourselves to connect in different ways.

The Campaign to End Loneliness was started by five enterprising organisations who had a conversation at an event, an event like the one held last Monday: these people with a shared interest brought something new to life to enable more of us to work together, to reach more people, to ensure we’re doing the very best to tackle loneliness.

But this connections and ideas don’t just happen at events. Today, we invite you to join the Learning Network – to join likeminded organisations and learn from research, practice and policy. It’s easy to get involved:

  1. Sign up as a supporter of the Campaign to End Loneliness. Anyone who signs up and indicates that they work for an organisation providing services to older people – or who simply wants to join – will be added to the Learning Network mailing list and receive regular updates
  2. Tweet us! You can find us on Twitter at @EndLonelinessUK where we share our latest news. Let us know how you’re tackling loneliness, start a debate, ask questions about the issue that you’d like to see answered or even just say hi
  3. Put your organisation on the map. You can let us know what you’re doing through the map on our Learning Network page. Or simply email the information to Anna. Please share your evaluations, reports or case studies with the Network: anything that backs up what you do
  4. Join us at an event. Book now for our next workshop, Understanding Loneliness: the Future for Befriending, or keep an eye out for new events in 2015 on our Learning Network webpage