Loneliness, it’s subject that I’ve been thinking of writing about for a while now. However, having seen some footage recently on the BBC Breakfast program about an elderly gentleman called Terrence, now seemed as good a time as any. Terrence had featured on a segment they were covering on loneliness as he has spent the last 20 Christmases on his own following the death of his mother. The viewers were so moved by his story, that BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker and some students from Oldham College arranged for a Christmas tree to be delivered to his house and decorated for him. As part of his volunteer work with Age UK, Terrence is going to spending time over Christmas with a lady in her 90’s who suffers from dementia.
So, what exactly is loneliness. Google defines it as:
I have to say I don’t really agree with this definition, it feels a little too simplistic for what in reality is a concept subject and quite personal to each individual. When you ask most people, what comes to mind when they imagine a lonely person, they’ll probably likely to say someone who is elderly and lives alone with no family nearby. However, a nationwide survey conducted in 2018 by BBC Radio 4’s All In The Mind in collaboration with Wellcome Collection found that Two-fifths (40 per cent) of people aged 16-24 say they feel lonely often or very often, compared to 29 per cent of 65-74-year-olds and 27 per cent of those aged over 75. Loneliness can be a complex subject, there is a difference between feeling alone and feeling lonely. You can feel lonely in a room full of people, but quite happy and comfortable when alone. Around a third of people say they think loneliness is about being by yourself and 83 per cent of people like being on their own. Over 9 million people in the UK – almost a fifth of the population – say they are always or often lonely, but almost two thirds feel uncomfortable admitting to it (British Red Cross and Co-Op, 2016).
Feelings of loneliness can be caused by many different things. For a lot of people, loneliness can be triggered by certain life events such as:
- a bereavement of a loved one
- the end of a relationship
- changing jobs
- moving to a new area or country without family and friends
Some people find they feel lonely at certain times of the year, such as Christmas time.
For me loneliness is about feeling isolated. I’ll admit that I have times when I feel lonely despite having family and friends who only live a short distance from me. As I mentioned in my first running blog last year, as a single man in his late 30’s one thing I find these days is that I have time to fill. Especially as I’ve reached that stage in life where a lot of my friends have settled down so naturally you don’t see or speak to them as much as you once did. Over the last five years or so I have had to get used to doing certain activities on my own, whether that be going to the cinema or going to a gig. I’ve not quite been brave enough to go away on holiday by myself yet. I guess I’ve always seen a holiday as an experience that is better shared with other people. The older I get, the more conscious I get of still being on my own and as an only child I do sometimes have thoughts about who will be there for me when I’m older although I try not to dwell on such thoughts for too long. Whilst it is good to have some time to yourself, I’m not sure that having too much time alone is always a healthy thing either. Like with most things in life, I think getting a healthy balance is the aim.
In the past my running has come in handy as it gets me out of the house and into the fresh air to clear my mind. It also gives me the chance to meet up with my running buddies whether that be at parkrun or at my running club. Unfortunately, I’ve been injured for the last few months so I’ve not been able to do much running during this time. I’ve volunteered a few times at my local parkrun during this time but it’s not quite the same as being out there running with your mates. Sitting at home watching my hard-earned fitness slip away whilst you watch your running friends taking part in races that you had signed up for can be very frustrating at times. I have now made a return to parkrun in recent weeks albeit with a combination of walking and a slow jog and it has been nice to catchup with some familiar faces again!
I’m aware that I could probably use some of my spare time better than I currently do whether that be taking up some new hobbies or perhaps doing some volunteer work. The older I get the more conscious I get that I should giving something back to society or the local community. Whilst reading up on the subject of loneliness in preparation for writing this blog, I have stumbled across a charity called GoodGym who operate all over the UK. They are a community of runners that combine getting fit with doing good. They stop off on their runs to do physical tasks for community organisations and to support isolated older people with social visits and one-off tasks they can’t do on their own. Once I am fully fit then this is something that I will definitely look into as combining my passion for running along with doing some good for others seems like a good idea and a worthwhile use of my time.
If you want to know more about this subject or if you want to help out any of the charities, I’ve mentioned then I have included some links to their websites below.