It’s an epidemic it would not cost a penny to solve – loneliness. And you could be the medicine. Posted on September 26, 2018September 27, 2018 by Dave Fenton I’ve blogged before about the ‘Elinor Rigby’ epidemic of loneliness that’s doing such damage today. It’s the cause of millions of mostly elderly people being deprived of human contact for days on end – leading to poor health, depression and shortened lives. In the past I’ve focused on the opportunity for churches to respond. But churches are made up of individuals – like you – who could do so much to bring joy and warmth to someone who is lonely. Who are those in need? Official UK figures say some 9 million people are lonely. This includes – About half a million people are often going for more than a week without seeing anybody. About 200,000 older people have not spoken to a friend or relative in more than a month. Many of those receiving regular visits from care workers get no more than 15 minutes of their time – with a survey showing 500,000 pensioners received visits so brief that staff didn’t even speak to them. All it takes is a little of your time This epidemic would not cost a penny to solve. It just needs the time of those who care – even just an hour a week. The need is for troops on the ground. Those who care enough and with time enough to each play a part. And those no longer in fulltime employment have a God-given opportunity to step up. If every ‘retired and active’ person found just one lonely person to visit, the love of Christ could be shared with many who are feeling that life has lost a lot of its meaning. How to get started? Here are 5 simple ways – Seek out a lonely person in your street or nearby Talk to your church leaders about elderly church members in need of visitors Contact nearby retirement homes, asking if there are those who seldom have visitors Check with your local services to see what needs you could meet Contact agencies like Age Concern and offer to visit those known to them Simple ways to get it right To make the most of your time that will mean so much to a lonely person here are things to keep in mind – Relationships take time to develop trust and openness. So don’t be surprised if your Initial approaches may be tense and difficult. The person you are visiting may be depressed as this can result from a lack of human contact. No two elderly people are the same. Some may find conversation difficult. Others could talk for England. If they are expecting a visit, make sure you turn up. Get them to tell their story. Don’t expect them to remember every detail of your last conversation – or even your name. Take your grandchildren with you. A recent TV documentary revealed the benefit of elderly people being with children regularly. Be careful about what you offer. An occasional cake is fine but don’t be over-lavish and so create wrong expectations. There’s something in it for you too Our faith is built on relationship to God – and also on relationships with others. It’s easy for our circle to become closed – the faithful who gather with us every Sunday. Here’s the opportunity to open it out – and be enriched yourself in the process. For an overview of the loneliness issue please see our web page on The Lonely. David 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 an experience about visiting someone who is lonely? Do share it here or on our Facebook group.