What the UK is experiencing is a loneliness epidemic. It is the sheer number of older people suffering from loneliness and social isolation which blights the UK's position as one of the best places in the world to grow old. This isn't going away or getting any better, and it's not something we can shy away from.
As the nation recalls the dark days of 1940 and honours the brave RAF airmen who fought in the Battle of Britain, the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund is trying to help veterans who are having dark days today. Too often we hear stories of elderly veterans who have outlived their family and are spending their later years in solitude. But our new research tells a slightly different story.
Loneliness is literally painful. It activates the same brain areas that alert us to physical pain, making us seek out others and encouraging us to spend time with family and friends. To prevent our brains triggering this feeling, we must understand why it happens and learn to respond to it promptly.
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.