Dil Daly – Chief Executive at Age Concern Liverpool and Sefton – is all too familiar with the growing rise in loneliness, amongst older people especially, but in younger generations too. Dil is supporting National Conversation Week, and in his guest blog, is encouraging people to put the smartphones aside and actually get talking.
With 1.2 million older people admitting they are chronically lonely, we’re all for National Conversation Week. All too often, people revert to sending a text or Whatsapp message which, understandably, isn’t necessarily the chosen method of communication for older people. When was the last time you called your grandad or visited your elderly aunt?
Granted, we’re all leading hectic lives – juggling busy careers with raising families, keeping a home clean and tidy and finding a spare hour here or there to make it to the gym – but are we really too busy to make the time for a conversation every now and then? It’s sad indeed if we are!
Maybe we just need to make the time for it, the same way we do for the gym or football training. It’s all too easy to spend time flicking through social media sites and ignoring the people right in front of you. But, we’re in danger of becoming a lonely nation if we don’t take the opportunity to engage with the people around us, both young and old!
Young people are lonely too. Recent research from Nationwide suggests that under-35s are more likely to feel lonely than over-55s. So, if the older population today – a generation brought up socialising face-to-face at dances, church and on our own doorsteps – feels isolated, and young people are lonely, imagine how a generation raised on faceless social media interaction will fair in the future. Hundreds of Facebook ‘friends’, likes and retweets might be good for the ego momentarily, but what about our mental wellbeing in the long-term? Can a like ever really replace a natter over a cuppa or a simple hug? Human nature dictates that we need physical human interaction.
Of course, it would be foolish to think that turning our backs on social media all together is feasible or even desirable – it has its merits, after all. However, switching off from it every now and again and taking time out for those we love is crucial, whether it’s in the form of a visit, phone call or even writing a letter. Everyone loves to be loved!
I propose that everyone takes a moment during National Conversation Week to pick up the phone to an old friend or, better still, pop in for a chat instead of sending that text or email. And most importantly, we all pledge to continue the sentiment beyond National Conversation Week. The best way to combat loneliness is to communicate, so let’s get talking!