THE BLOG

Together, We Can Ease Loneliness This Winter

02/11/2015 11:28 GMT | Updated 01/11/2016 09:12 GMT

The other day, a friend asked me if I get lonely living by myself.

As I prepared myself to say my stock response of 'of course not, I love it, I can eat what I like, sing in the shower, sleep till noon' I stopped myself and instead took a sip of my drink, sat back on the pub sofa and said 'absolutely'.

Because the truth is, living alone (and I can only speak for myself but I am pretty sure it's not just me) can be lonely, terribly lonely.

Saturday mornings for me are often the hardest, especially when you have no weekend plans. That easy conversation you get having someone around is something I miss. Having to make plans to see people can get expensive, people are busy. Loneliness happens.

Despite this, I love my flat and my independence and most of the time I relish my own company, but there have been times when I have been bone-achingly lonely, and I am not even alone. I have great family nearby, lots of friends and a busy job and frantic life, I mean, I honestly have nothing to complain about.

It's a worry then isn't it, that some people are dying of loneliness?

If I can feel this way surrounded by the trappings of a comfortable life, how must it be for people who have no one?

Nobody to call and see if they have arrived somewhere safely, or to be on hand for the dramas living alone can bring?

Imagine days rolling in front of you with no plans, no company and nobody to turn to. Pretty rubbish, eh?

This is the reality for many people in this country, especially elderly people.

I recently visited a lunch-club as part of a story I was working on, and met a lady who attends this club once a week. This lady is 85 and has no family. She described the lunch club as a 'lifeline' where she gets a decent meal, has a chat and a sing song and feels less, in her words, 'empty' when she goes back to her little flat.

She described her days as being like a 'tide'. They come, they go out again, they come again. 'This is not how I thought it would be' she said sadly, 'but you know, I plod along'.

I felt really sad when I left that day, but happy to know that clubs like this one break up loneliness. They do so much more than provide lunch.

It got me thinking about Christmas. Imagine this special day being spent totally alone?

We might actually laugh and think to ourselves 'that sounds like bliss, beats all the family drama and expense' - but now really think for a minute.

Imagine Christmas with nobody to turn to, to wish you happy holidays. Christmas Day comes and it's just another 24 hours to get through. I can't bear the thought that so many elderly people, many who fought in the war, raised families, loved and lost their soul mates could be spending it alone.

So, this Christmas I am getting involved in a community activity, which is happening where I live. It's a Christmas Walk, and it is one of the loveliest ideas I have heard in such a long time.

We are going to go for a winter walk with people who would otherwise be alone, and then all have mince pies and wine at a neighbour's house. I am lucky, my Christmas won't be spent alone, I will be with my family after the walk, but for others, it's a long day ahead.

Of course, it is not just elderly people who are alone. Loneliness is an epidemic, as dangerous, some say as obesity or smoking. It eats away at you, it's always there - but there is so much people can do, so much you and I can do to ease our own loneliness and help others in the process. It sounds cliché, but when I volunteered at a homeless shelter one Christmas it helped me far more than I helped anyone.

So, next time you are feeling lonely, remember that hopefully you have someone you can call, a friend you can arrange a coffee with, a parent or child to chat with, a walk to go on. If you have an elderly neighbour, give them a smile, a knock on the door, a wave in the morning - because for all you know you may be the only person they see all day, and the way I see it, everyone needs the tide to break now and then.

http://www.fote.org.uk/support-us/christmas/