You’re not supposed to feel lonely while you’re young, but the truth is it’s a bigger concern among young people than any other age group.
In recent years youth loneliness and isolation has been increasingly identified as a matter of significant public concern. Research identifies that one in three young people suffer from loneliness (Red Cross, Co-op, Kantar, 2016) and 65% of 16-25 years old reporting feeling loneliness at times and 32% feeling lonely “often” or “all the time” (Majoribanks and Bradley, 2017).
“Loneliness is a recognised problem among the elderly – there are day centres and charities to help them,” says Sam Challis, an information manager at the mental health charity Mind, “but when young people reach 21 they’re too old for youth services.”
But what can young people do to combat loneliness?
While meditation techniques such as mindfulness and apps such as Headspace are trendy solutions frequently recommended for a range of mental health problems, they’re not necessarily helpful for loneliness, as they actively encourage us to dwell alone on our thoughts. You’re be better off addressing the underlying causes of being lonely first – what’s stopping you going out and seeing people?
Social media can be helpful. Helplines can also reduce loneliness, at least in the short term. One in four men who call the Samaritans mention loneliness or isolation, and Get Connected is a free confidential helpline for young people, where they can seek help with emotional and mental health issues often linked to loneliness. There are also support services on websites such as Mind’s that can remind you you’re not alone. Speak to your employer, value the interactions you have in the workplace. Counselling can be helpful. The BACP website allows you to search for counsellors in your area. “A problem aired is a problem shared and sometimes you need to talk to someone impartial and independent of your friends and family.
If recent research is to be believed, loneliness is killing the elderly and, with an ageing population, we should aim to reduce our isolation before it is too late. “Getting older doesn’t have to mean getting lonelier,” says Ruth Sutherland, the chief executive of Relate, in a new report. “But much of this rests on laying the foundations to good-quality relationships earlier in life.”
Schools across Scotland should be used as community hubs to deliver a wide range of public services.
That’s the verdict of South Ayrshire Council and its partners following a pilot in north Ayr, which culminated in a community marketplace at Ayr Academy on 23 February.
A range of partners from NHS, Scottish Fire and Rescue service and the voluntary sector worked together to explore how this would work in practice.
Crucially, services were available to everyone living in the area – not just those with children in the schools.
Services provided included money and debt management advice, employability and skills information and advice, health and wellbeing support from school nurses and assistant nurse practitioners. Council Leader, Douglas Campbell, commented on the learning from the pilot,
“It’s been a terrific learning opportunity for all the partners involved and that’s been one of the key outcomes of this week – getting to know more about what each of us has to offer and how we can better link in and signpost to provide a more joined-up service for people.”
Spare Chair Sunday first launched in 2015 as a partnership between national charity Contact the Elderly and Bisto. Expanding on the charity’s model of free monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for small groups of older people aged over 75 who live alone, Spare Chair Sunday encouraged people to offer a ‘spare chair’ at their Sunday lunch tables to a Contact the Elderly older guest and their volunteer driver, to share a delicious warm lunch all together. The response to the award-winning campaign was amazing, with over 1,600 Spare Chair Sunday volunteers hosting Sunday lunches or becoming regular tea party volunteers in their local community.
Any host homes or venues must have a downstairs toilet and be easily accessible (generally we say no more than three steps where possible).
Any car used must be fully insured and drivers must hold a full driving licence, as well as supplying two references and completing a DBS check. This is for the safety and security of guests and host.
Interested? Click on http://www.contact-the-elderly.org.uk/volunteer to apply to become a volunteer. Applications are dealt with as soon as possible, but please do be patient, all necessary checks must be made. In some cases, there will not be anyone near enough to you, groups may already have as many volunteers as they require, or there may not be a group in your area. It may be the case that your application may enable work to be launched in the area for the first time, enabling more older people to benefit!
Borrowing from neighbours was once a commonplace practice, part of the network of relations we once had with those who lived within close range.
So what’s changed?
The industrial revolution brought affordable modern technology—with it quick transportation and supermarkets. In ancient times, hunting, gathering, and foraging were communal practices. And it wasn’t long ago that many cultures, especially rural ones, still relied on weekly markets, traveling salesmen, and the growing of their own goods. But living in relative isolation also meant more contact with your neighbours because one of them probably provided your weekly dairy needs and another milled wheat for flour or grew pears you exchanged for apples.
Changes in food technology, making fresh produce less perishable, extending shelf life, has decreased the interaction we have with those who live close by to help out when we are running short. Communal cooking practises regularly seen in other countries don’t feature in our society.
It’s easy to reflect on past practises with rose tinted spectacles. Changes in our food supply has brought countless benefits. However, does the growing reliance on foodbanks indicate we should re-evaluate practises long forgotten? Reconnecting with our neighbours in times of need would not only strengthen bonds within our communities but provide welcome support during difficult times. The social distance created by modern society is a symptom of our increasingly busy lives and the sprawling communities we now live in. However, it is only a short walk next door for that cupful of sugar, but the benefits to our communities can stretch much further than that.
Solomon thought so, he says to ‘go to the ant’ and ‘consider the ant’ and refers to them as little upon the earth but exceeding wise. He suggests that taking a leaf from their book will preserve us from poverty and give us wisdom. Given Solomon is the richest man the world has ever known (today he would be worth 100 times more than John D Rockefeller), some ant facts are worth knowing.
So, how do ant communities do it?
1. Strong leadership
Ant communities are headed by a queen or queens, whose function in life is to lay thousands of eggs that will ensure the survival of the colony. Workers (the ants typically seen by humans) are wingless females that never reproduce, but instead, forage for food, care for the queen’s offspring, work on the nest, protect the community, and perform many other duties. When the queen of the colony dies, the colony can only survive a few months. Queens are rarely replaced and the workers are not able to reproduce. The lesson;
Without strong and clear leadership – failure is imminent!
2. Communicate & cooperate
Ants are social insects which form colonies that range in size from a few dozen predatory individuals living in small natural cavities to highly organised colonies which may occupy large territories and consist of millions of individuals. Ants communicate and cooperate by using chemicals (pheromones) that can alert others to danger or lead them to a promising food source. The lesson;
Nothing can succeed without clear communication and cooperation.
Carnegie Trust UK have published their second report looking at loneliness and social isolation and the impact of kinder communities. The report finds kindness is a necessary ingredient of successful communities. However there are major factors that get in the way of engaging and encouraging kindness both in individuals and organisations. Read the report here
Christmas is a time of giving and receiving, spending time with friends and family and maybe overindulging just a little bit?
Here are our top tips to ensure you don’t start 2018 with that sinking feeling of too much Christmas pudding being the final straw;
- Don’t sit down all day – go for a walk, kick a football about, ride a new bike. Not only will this aid digestion, but help you sleep better too.
- Go easy on the booze
- Don’t give yourself a Christmas stuffing! Recent research suggests that we consume around 3,000 calories in our Christmas dinner – more than the entire recommended daily intake for a grown man!
- Keep colds at bay
- Don’t stress – ’tis the season to be jolly remember
- Eat fruit – even the clementine tucked in the bottom of your stocking will boost vitamin C warding coughs and colds.
- Do something for others – do you have an elderly neighbour who would love to share some festive spirit?
- Engage your brain – play games, do a crossword, not only does this keep your mind active but can be fun for the whole family