I'm 59, the eldest of four siblings, but have no partner and no children. A sense of inadequacy grows: what can I leave my nephews and nieces, and their children? I don't mean memories; I mean, what that is tangible and lasting, that I can equitably share among them? It's like feeling a phantom limb, a shadowy disconnect with future generations that I so ache to put right.
This week the Institute for Public Policy Research published a report revealing that the number of older people needing informal care will outstrip the number of family members able to provide it as early as 2017. Worrying news for a social care system already creaking under the strain of not enough funding and too many people in need of care.
'm hardly the world's biggest social networker, so it seems doubtful that when I'm dead I'll suddenly start messaging people for all eternity. Although that's obviously not the case for everyone. I've been wondering what all those tweets from Elvis and Beethoven were about- loving the new duet guys.
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.
Just as it is cruel to deprive the elderly of food or medication, it is cruel to accept the current state of social isolation. We could ask why these lonely people's families are not more involved or go down the Chinese government route of 'forcing' people to visit their elderly parents but the reality is that people are naturally occupied with making a living and raising their own young.
It would be a lie to suggest that nothing changes. I no longer throw extended, highly emotional screaming matches at being forced to eat sprouts, like I did when I was 12. Or wet the bed, like I did when I was 12. But fundamentally, it doesn't feel so different. I for one prefer a Tracey Beaker omnibus and ice cream to paying bills.
We are social beings and interacting with others is crucial to our functioning and mental health. The loss of active family connections and any sense of community, inevitably lead to depression so the question is how do we bring socialisng back into these people's lives and can a sense of community actually be established?