Loneliness can look like many things - it can look like wanting connection while being surrounded by people, a friendly chat to break up the day, or even a conversation with a cashier rather than a self-checkout machine. And while it is difficult to say for sure what loneliness looks like, we know it is everywhere, with two fifths all older people (about 3.9 million) saying that television is their main source of company. We also know that loneliness is not just something that affects older people, with almost a third of people aged 18-24 saying that they feel lonely often or all of the time.
Inspired by the #LonelinessLooksLike campaign from the Jo Cox Foundation, we asked our network on social media - most of whom are younger people - via a quick poll, to what extent they’d experienced loneliness over the past year. The majority of respondents told us they’d experienced a very high level of loneliness:
To what extent have you felt lonely over the last year?
Many of our older neighbours have likewise been open about their feelings of loneliness over the past 12 months. One older neighbour shared with us, "it's been hard not being able to be out and about, I am so used to talking to lots of people”, while another told us, "I have lots of films to watch, and my budgie, but I do get lonely".
But despite the challenges of lockdowns and social distancing, our east London community have also been sharing what has kept them hopeful over the last 12 months, with answers varying from their job, place of worship and talking with family and friends, to rollerblading and finding new communities online.
Speaking with our older neighbours has also shone a light on finding positivity in a lonely time, with one neighbour telling us how receiving our #AloneTogether packs (now named #AllTogether) with messages from her younger neighbours makes her feel, “I see the heart shape on the envelope, and it makes me smile, and makes me happy”. Another older neighbour also shared some wise words on the power of chatting, “sometimes just talking unreservedly can make you feel so much better - it's good for you". And in typical east London fashion, despite the difficulty of the past year, the majority of the people we asked have still managed to find a way to cultivate a sense of community, even from afar.
At East London Cares, we’re continually inspired by the power of coming together, of sharing laughter and new experiences, and forming friendships across the generations. And as we slowly reintroduce face-to-face activities, we can’t wait to see more of our east London neighbours in-person soon, and to continue finding new ways to tackle loneliness in Tower Hamlets and Hackney.
Posted by Sasha Khan on Thursday 20th May 2021
Sasha is the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator at East London Cares, reaching older and younger neighbours and connecting them to our Social Clubs, Love Your Neighbour programme and Winter Wellbeing project. Previously Sasha has worked at Age UK and Coram, and volunteered at our sibling charity North London Cares.