You might not be lonely, but someone you know very well could be.
A recent study by The Co-op and the British Red Cross showed over 9 million people in the UK across all adult ages – more than the population of London – are either always or often lonely, and a poll earlier this year highlighted that 83% of us wouldn’t recognise all our neighbours in a police line-up and the majority of us have a stronger sense of belonging to our workplace (60%) than our neighbourhood (48%).
If you're not sure how to help someone who is lonely, here's some tips on how to support someone who is experiencing feelings of loneliness.
1. Show them you’re available
Keep in touch by phone, email or in person so they know someone is there for them when they need support. Don’t give up on them if they don’t call or visit you in return, but if they need time alone, try to respect that.
2. Offer to take them out
If it’s difficult for them to get out and about, you could volunteer to take them out, for example to a café or to visit a friend. There might even be a local charity who could help if you don’t have much spare time. Just don’t push them into anything, as it might seem daunting to them at first.
3. Ask how they’re feeling
By talking to them about how they’re feeling, without leading them into any particular issue, you might find out that something else is troubling them. Try not to make assumptions about why they are lonely – there are many reasons why someone might be feeling loneliness.
4. Enlist expert help
Some people might feel more comfortable talking about their feelings to a stranger or professional. If it seems appropriate, you could suggest they speak to their GP or call a charity helpline.
5. Be dependable
Missing a visit or phone call may not seem important to you, but could be very disappointing for someone who doesn’t have much contact with others, so try to be reliable.
6. Help them discover new ways to stay in touch
There are a huge range of different ways to stay in touch these days, from social media to email and text messaging. If they don’t feel comfortable using computers, you could encourage them to join a course to learn how to use computers and the internet, which are run by most local councils.
7. Help them to try something new
If they have a particular interest, joining a group, such as a rambling club, reading group or dance class, could help them connect with like-minded people. If they show an interest in an activity, you could offer to go with them to the first session if they’re nervous about going alone.
8. Talk about practical barriers
Barriers such as not having a car, not having enough money or being a full-time carer could be preventing them from connecting with people or getting out and about. Talk to them about what these barriers may be and encourage them to speak to Independent Age on 0800 319 6789 for help overcoming them.
9. Ask other people for help
If you’re very busy or live far away, you don’t need to feel like you have to do everything yourself. See if anyone else, such as a friend, neighbour, relative or charity volunteer, can regularly call or visit the person who is lonely.
10. Host a Sunday lunch
The Big Lunch - an idea from The Eden Project made possible by The National Lottery – will be held this year on Sunday 3 June, aiming to beat last year’s record involvement of 9.3 million people across the UK. The annual event encourages people to get together with others in their neighbourhoods to share food and fun. Research conducted by The Eden Project last year found that 76% of people that joined a Big Lunch felt closer to their neighbours as a result, with 79% socialising more with people in their community.
Join millions of others across the UK and sit down to have lunch with your neighbours as part of The Big Lunch on Sunday 3rd June 2018, the UK's biggest annual get together for neighbours. Order your free pack at www.thebiglunch.com.