After a year of lockdowns, social distancing, and restrictions, more of us are experiencing loneliness than ever, which is having a great impact on our wellbeing. It's been an incredibly tough year for so many of us, but perhaps especially those on their own. Luckily, Staywell’s fantastic In Touch telephone support volunteers have been on hand (well, on the other end of the phone!) to provide hundreds of hours of friendship and fun. It’s been a real community effort.

Loneliness Awareness Week takes place from 14th – 18th June 2021.  An annual campaign, the aim is to raise awareness about loneliness, with the ambition that by building a greater awareness and acceptance of the issue, we can help ourselves and others to manage the feeling.

‘John’, 84 years old, was referred to Staywell’s Community Connectors social prescribing by his GP in 2020, as he was feeling isolated. His partner had recently passed away.  He had been prescribed anti-depressants, but they were making him feel sleepy. The Connector suggested he join our In Touch Telephone Support Service volunteer team, which he agreed to, and he is now calling several people on a regular weekly basis, having conversations sometimes over an hour long. He is no longer on anti-depressants and life is slowly getting back on track.

Different types of loneliness have been identified. Although we may think we know what loneliness is, it can mean different things to different people, and be experienced in different ways. We can feel physically lonely or isolated, where we don’t see or speak to people and there is no one in our lives on a regular basis. We can feel situational loneliness after a life event, such as being bereaved or retiring. We can feel lonely even when we have other people in our lives: emotional loneliness is when we feel unseen, misunderstood or disconnected from our family, friends, partners and neighbours. Or we can feel a sense of long-term internal loneliness, no matter what our external circumstances are. In this case, it may be worth exploring further with a mental health expert such as a therapist or counsellor.

Staywell supports people in a variety of ways. As well as our In Touch Service, our Community Team are now carrying out (Covid secure) home visits, matching people with volunteer walking companions for those who have lost their confidence to go out, and our Raleigh House Day Centre is now re-open once again to welcome members for social support.

Image source: Centre for Ageing Better age positive library