Yet another report tells us that loneliness in Britain today is almost at “epidemic” proportions. According to Age UK, half a million people over the age of 60 go for an entire week without meeting or speaking to anyone.
Our society has a strikingly utilitarian response to human problems, and this situation is especially deplored because it could cost the public purse, since loneliness has been linked to heart problems, depression and dementia. Lonely people need more services and so we should do something about it.
Indeed, we should all do something about it; and we should, if possible, busy ourselves to deter our own personal loneliness. There are plenty of corny old remedies handed out by counsellors over the years: join a club, develop a hobby, make new friends (because if you survive, your old ones will predecease you), keep in touch with family and neighbours, and, of course, go to church. Many studies have shown that churchgoers are less isolated and live longer.
It’s just common sense that we all have to make an effort for ourselves, and not allow ourselves to lose touch with our community of friends, neighbours, family links or even like-minded hobbyists.
Single people – be they widowed, separated or unmarried – become especially aware that married couples in retirement seem to form an even tighter unit than before, so singletons have to be particularly proactive in their anti-loneliness tactics.
And yet I think there is an element of loneliness which is existentially part of the human condition. Humans thrive in groups, yet we also know that we are lone souls travelling through time and space. That awareness is with us even when we’re surrounded by company.
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