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.
I can't tell you if this will change me fundamentally for ever and ever as a person or whether it will just open my eyes a bit more to peoples' humanity and reduce my own insecure need to 'not put myself out there' for fear of rejection, but I have noticed that I've made a lot more friends in the past couple of weeks.
The issues my parents faced living in a foreign land never truly dawned on me until I began living abroad alone, and that "dawning" was only a superficial realisation. Growing up, I found my parents uncouth and I was annoyed by the seemingly unending confusion and embarrassment they bestowed upon me: why did they have to speak Vietnamese so loudly in public?