When I look closely, I can see them sitting in coffee shops, wandering around grocery stores and waiting for the bus: lonely people. Lonely people can be surrounded by others and still feel isolated. It’s the lack of meaningful social connections that leave people feeling abandoned. Loneliness is something I’ve become more aware of now that I am not rushing through my days. I’ve decided that I don’t want to add to the loneliness of others.
Who Is Lonely?
Contrary to what you might think, lonely people are not all older. But the risks of becoming lonely increase as you age.* It’s very easy to retire from your job and then withdraw from all social contact. As a retired person, I have to make an effort to connect with my friends because I won’t be seeing them at work everyday. During the pandemic when many people were cut off from their jobs, loneliness rose dramatically in all age groups.**
It’s Bad For Your Health
Isolation increases your chances for many mental and physical health issues including anxiety, depression, suicide, stroke, dementia and heart disease and the worst, mortality.*** In fact, lonely people tend to become lonelier. Sadly, when you feel that you are alone, you are less likely to reach out and make new connections with others. It feels too risky.*** It takes courage to reach out and it feels awkward for many of us.
What can be done?
In Europe, they have been taking loneliness seriously by providing support for people who are feeling isolated. In the UK, their National Health Site offers lots of tips, phone lines and resources for people. Check it out by clicking here.
In the Netherlands, they have grocery store cashiers designated to off-set loneliness. If people want to chat with someone, they line up at these slow cashiers and get to pay for their groceries and have a little talk too. The programme was created with elderly shoppers in mind, but everyone is welcome to use it.
Doing A Social Experiment
How can we help? Talk to strangers and spend less time on your phone in public. When I’m waiting in line, I had a tendency to fill the time by looking at my phone. Many people do. But when I’m looking down, I’m missing that chance to connect with a stranger who is also in the line and share a second or two of conversation. I’ve decided to make an effort to talk to others when I’m picking up my coffee, waiting for a bus or paying for my groceries. It doesn’t take much to make someone feel just a little less alone. I’ve decided it’s worth a try. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Such a dear post’ Lovely! 🥲
Sent from my iPhone