Time to Shine at Leeds Older People’s Forum has been working with third sector partners across Leeds since 2015 to reduce social isolation and loneliness. During this time many innovative and creative activities have been created. These range from helping people make meaningful connections and friendships with others to supporting development of new interests.
Lockdown, though necessary to keep us all safe, can make supporting people to develop social connections an even bigger challenge. However, loneliness has become a very present reality during the Covid-19 crisis and it is putting loneliness in the spotlight. The subsequent isolation enforced upon us means that many of us are possibly feeling a sense of loneliness for the first time in our lives and it is highlighting more than ever just how much we need each other. We need to be clear that not everyone who is isolated is lonely though. Some of us feel comfortable with isolation. At the same time some people who are with others may be feeling lonely as we lack connections with people outside of our own homes. It is the quality of our relationships that really matter to us.
Leeds as a city has responded to the Covid-19 crisis in a way that makes us proud. The flourishing community activity that has arisen is making a real difference. Some people have reported that lockdown has actually made them feel less lonely. Neighbours and community organisations have made new efforts to connect, and we are reaching out to people where they are rather than encouraging them to come to us.
We certainly should not accept the assumption that loneliness is an inevitable part of ageing. We all experience loneliness, regardless of age. We all experience it in different ways and develop our own unique ways of coping. Older people are often the most resilient and could help younger people find new ways of coping.
Society has commonly portrayed loneliness as a weakness or flaw and people have feared that by expressing this emotion they will somehow be seen as failing. But loneliness is a universal human emotion, not an illness,just like happiness and sadness, joy and despair. It is okay to talk about it. To admit that you are lonely is simply to say that you have one of the most basic human needs – interaction with others.
We at Time to Shine want to embrace the empathy and emotional understanding of loneliness that this crisis is bringing by shining a light on it and bringing loneliness out of the shadows.
We are launching a campaign ‘Time to Shine a Light On Loneliness’. Through the campaign we aim to:-
- capture the empathy and emotional understanding of loneliness that Covid-19 is creating and to promote longer lasting understanding
- use lockdown experience to highlight how loneliness impacts across all age groups, not just older people
- share our learning with local, regional and national partners about how loneliness affects people and ways of coping and developing resilience
- shine a light on how Covid-19 is impacting on different sections of our community and those at greater risk of loneliness during Covid-19.
- work in partnership citywide to keep loneliness high on the agenda post Covid-19 and build into future conversations to prevent loneliness across the city
How can you help? Tell us about your experience of feeling lonely – before lockdown or during. Tell us how it feels and how it affects you. We want to know what helps and how you cope. We really want to hear stories from all walks of life so that we can learn from you and use what we learn to help you and to help others.