Join the fight against loneliness – someone has to. Posted on August 31, 2018August 31, 2018 by Dave Fenton Would you spare an hour a week to help someone who’s lonely? I ask because there’s an epidemic out there that’s not only contributing to depression and reducing people’s health but also shortening their lives. It’s loneliness. Vast numbers of mainly older people, living for days and even weeks with no meaningful human contact. This epidemic wouldn’t necessarily cost a penny to solve. What’s really needed is for caring people to pledge to give a little time on a regular basis. And with those no longer working full time being among those best placed to help. How big is the problem? Official UK figures classify some 9 million people as lonely. That includes about half a million who often go more than a week without seeing anybody. And about 200,000 older people who haven’t spoken to a friend or relative for over a month. Those affected are mostly in their later years. Shockingly, more than half of all over-75’s see themselves as ‘chronically lonely’. At the same time, over 8 out of 10 young adults who live with a disability are feeling lonely every day. These chilling numbers represent a vast variety of circumstances. Their loneliness might be due to losing a spouse or partner. Even though, in the past, conversation hadn’t always flowed, at least there was someone else in the house. Now it’s all very quiet, except for the TV. People become lonely through the loss of other family members, and friends. For others the cause may be a loss of mobility – they can no longer drive, and public transport is either inaccessible, especially in rural areas, or simply too much of a challenge. The result is a vast number of fearful and distressed individuals living all around us. Their nagging fears include, ‘What would I do if I fell and couldn’t get up?’ ‘How can I make sense of my utility bill with all its different tariffs?’ And much else. How is it damaging lives? Doctors are now saying loneliness can do as much damage to health and life-span as smoking or obesity. It’s as bad for someone’s health as 15 cigarettes a day and twice as harmful as obesity, The damage is not only physical. Loneliness reduces the brain’s ability to work as it should. It becomes ever harder to remember, concentrate, or even make every day decisions. What can be done? The size and scale of this issue can be seen in that the UK now has the world’s first Minister for Loneliness – appointed in June 2018 – to look at public policy that can address the issue. Good as that is, the need is for troops on the ground. Those who care enough and with time enough to each play a part. Could you and your church help people like this who live in your neighbourhood? Practical ideas to help make that happen will be in a future blog. But meanwhile, check out some great advice here: How to be a Visitor and Befriender Dave Fenton: Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach. Do you have a story of how the problem of loneliness is being addressed by an individual or a church? Then do share it in response to this blog or on our Facebook page.