Living with the feeling that your life and existence mean very little to anyone at all can create a dangerous state of mind, only worsened by the idea that the reason for your loneliness is shameful. Those who are estranged are too often reminded of the isolating family myth - that everyone else in society is enjoying a functional and close family experience.
We all write it, a simple phrase that echoes a desire to remain connected to people who are personally or professionally important to us. Throughout most of our lives it may not mean much, but as people get older and potentially their number of contacts diminishes, keeping in touch takes on a whole new meaning.
For decades I didn't feel like I belonged anywhere. As far back as I can remember, it was difficult to "fit in". My mother was always saying "Why can't you be more like this person or that person?" I wondered that, too. I tried as hard as I could but somehow, it just didn't quite work. I didn't think like other people. And I was often misunderstood.
Through social media ,making friends and meeting new people has never been easier. Yes, critics cry boo at my generation tweeting and posting while we could be having real human interaction, but it is a great way for us outsiders to become part of an exciting online community and give us a sense of belonging, something all of us ultimately crave.
People with cerebral palsy can remember when SCOPE was called The Spastic Society. Now we have a culture where political correctness has overtaken and one cannot use the term 'disabled' or 'mentally handicapped' or even 'handicapped'; instead we have to use the terms 'less-abled' or 'learning difficulties'. Is this really required
For many guests the happy occasions of spending one afternoon per month having tea with a group of older guests and volunteers, are the only cross on the calendar. Contact the Elderly would like to draw public attention to what complete isolation feels like and what people can do to help solve the problem.
Reading and hearing reports in the media each day, it is impossible to deny that there is increased awareness of the issue of loneliness and isolation in older people in the UK. Since I founded the charity 49 years ago, Contact the Elderly has been actively involved in combating loneliness, providing over a million face-to-face friendship links via our monthly tea parties
Indeed, love probably means as many different things as there are people - from the unselfish care of a Mother Teresa to the heart-pounding passion of star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. Yet with Valentine's Day upon us it's the romantic variety tugging at our heartstrings, especially if we lack that special someone to share it with.
The conventional image of loneliness or isolation, particularly at Christmas, is of an older person living on their own. But families can feel intensely isolated too. Everyone needs support from time to time, and when that support is absent and people feel they have no-one to turn to, it can have a significant impact on an individual's health and well-being and can damage families.