To mark Loneliness Awareness Week 2023, we look at the way social interactions, particularly between different generations, can help build connections to alleviate loneliness and social isolation
For many of us, it is just a fact of life that as we get older, our social circle gets smaller and social interactions become less frequent.
Whether it’s due to living far away from family and friends, missing the social contact you used to get from work, or even having health problems that make it difficult to get out and about, loneliness is a real issue for many.
In the UK, an estimated half a million older people regularly go five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all. Instead for around 49 per cent of older people, the voice on the television becomes the only ones they hear regularly, as their main form of company.
But loneliness isn’t just an issue for older people. In fact, recent Government data has shown that younger people (aged 16-34) are more prone to reporting frequent feelings of loneliness compared to older generations, despite being more likely to have a larger social circle.
The data is a stark reminder that loneliness is a natural human emotion and something that most of us experience at some point. But, as a species hardwired to need social connections, it doesn’t have to be something we just accept.
Loneliness Awareness Week
Lonelinss is an intergenerational problem. Credit: Sasirin Pamai
Created and hosted by Marmalade Trust since 2017, Loneliness Awareness Week promotes conversations about loneliness in the UK and beyond, and this year, the campaign embraces the theme “Connections Matter” – encouraging people to harness small everyday moments of connection to make a big difference in all our lives.
Alice Peperell, Campaign Director of Loneliness Awareness Week says: “Loneliness Awareness Week was set up in 2017 when our founder, Amy Perrin, realised there was a huge amount of stigma relating to loneliness, and it was often unspoken about.
"Loneliness Awareness Week was set up because of a huge amount of stigma relating to loneliness, often unspoken about"
“This year, we want to encourage everyone to make an effort to connect with those around us and share a cuppa and a chat. It’s the little everyday interactions that can make a big difference in all our lives.”
Many of us don’t know where to start to make connections if we are feeling lonely, so Tanguy de Gélis, co-founder of family newspaper Famileo, has shared his thoughts on why intergenerational communication is important and how to take the first steps.
Transfer of knowledge and wisdom
There is a lot to be learned from different generations. Credit: Andrea Piacquadio
Interacting across generations fosters the exchange of wisdom and experience, transcending age and bridging gaps. With younger generations' digital proficiency and fresh perspectives, and older generations' accumulated knowledge, we can all learn from each other.
Engaging in conversations with people of different ages, whether with your own family members or over a cuppa in your local café or community group, can help us all learn new skills, as well as to recognise and appreciate the diversity of experiences and perspectives that exist across generations.
Strengthening family ties
The advent of social media, which has revolutionised the way we communicate, might suggest that loneliness should be on the decline, but in fact, it continues to cast a long shadow over the lives of many.
"After struggling to keep in touch with my grandmother regularly, I realised there was still a need for a tangible way of communication"
It can be particularly isolating for older generations, who desperately want to keep up with the lives of their family members but feel they are missing out because they do not use social platforms.
I spotted this dilemma several years ago with my own grandmother. After struggling to keep in touch with her as regularly as I would’ve liked to, I realised there was still a need for a tangible way of communication, to keep her involved and up to date with our busy lives in between our in-person visits.
How to meet people
Spending time with friends or family of a different generation is enriching. Credit: dima_sidelnikov
Whether you live in a bustling city or a rural village, most places have opportunities to meet new people. From coffee mornings and book clubs to walking clubs and art workshops, there are social activities that everyone can get involved with to meet likeminded people, whatever hobbies you enjoy and no matter your ability.
For those less inclined, or able, to get out and about, befriending services and companionship schemes (offered by many charities across the country) are a great way to make social connections from the comfort of your own home and share a cuppa and a chat with a friendly face.
"From designated chatty tables in cafés and pubs to neighbourhood bake sales and speed friending, there’s something for everyone"
To mark Loneliness Awareness Week, Marmalade Trust has worked with local groups and businesses across the UK to create a society where loneliness is spoken about openly and normally and encourage community connections.
From designated chatty tables in cafés and pubs to neighbourhood bake sales and speed friending, businesses putting loneliness on their meeting agenda, radio stations having honest and open conversations about loneliness, laughter yoga, shared office lunches and cook-offs, there’s something for everyone.
Connections matter: putting it into practice
In a world marked by rapid technological advancements and ever-changing communication norms, tools and services for reconnecting older generations with the world and their loved ones are extremely important. By embracing new and old traditions, families and communities can create a sense of togetherness, nurture understanding across generations, and ensure that no one is left feeling lonely and isolated.
Find out more about Loneliness Awareness Week and find social activities that are happening locally to you here.
Banner credit: Ridofranz
Read more: How does loneliness affect your body?
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