Laura Ferguson, Director of Campaign to End Loneliness, discusses the human context to the new Age Action Alliance.
It is likely that you understand what it feels to be lonely. It is a human emotion that many of us have experience of at some point in our lives. But how many of us really understand how long term loneliness feels; how best to combat loneliness or how we can effectively play our part in combating this problem?
Understanding at these three levels is the starting point for effective work to combat loneliness: the people, the problem, our part in the solution. Understanding of the personal perception of loneliness and its opposites; understanding of what we know about loneliness – its causes and impacts and how to alleviate and prevent it; as well as understanding what role we can all play to combat this social problem is needed.
It is at these three levels that the Age Action Alliance, launched on 30th September and just at the beginning of its work through its very practically-focused working group on isolation and loneliness, will need to address its project towards.
Loneliness is a problem felt by people. To understand is to see from their view point: whether that be the lack of mobility that prevents him from getting out; the recent bereavement that leaves a gaping hole in her life that nothing can fill; or the feeling of being cut off from friends after retirement.
Long term loneliness can also impact on the long term health of those suffering and often leads to a cycle of further loneliness, so the causes and impacts of loneliness must be understood. An individual responds in different ways to feeling lonely, and connects with people in as many different ways as there are people. Understanding that the causes, impacts and solutions to loneliness are as varied as the human population is crucial in recognising what needs to be done next.
To truly understand something as devastating as loneliness to the point of reaching out is also part of being human. And whether we’re talking about individuals taking action or organisations working together in an alliance to combat loneliness and isolation, we all need to start from where the people are who are feeling this debilitating emotion and reach out to them.
This is the challenge for a new national alliance – to start with the people. That is the same challenge facing all of us who are working to combat this terrible issue of loneliness. And our first steps are from understanding to action.
To learn more about the Age Action Alliance, visit their website: http://ageactionalliance.org/