Skip to content
Leeds Older People’s Forum
One older woman taking a photo of another, on a mobile phone.
← Back to all posts
October 6, 2022

Talking about loneliness: using the ‘L’ word

Profile image for Jessica Duffy

Good Practice Mentor

I’ve been to two very interesting webinars this week, looking at communications around loneliness. I wasn’t sure about attending them both as I thought they might be very similar, but I’m really glad I did.

The first was one of the series of workshops I’ve organised, which Jo Stapleton from Camden has run for us – sharing Ageing Better Camden’s learning about reaching out to the most lonely.  There’s been a lot of thinking about how we write for, and talk to those people who may lack social contacts. It was all about transactional language, keeping things very open, leaving people space to engage, and not using the ‘l’ word. It was all very interesting as they had learned a lot over the time of their programme about effective communication one to one and at a very local level, some of which directly contradicted the advice you might get about communications.

The second workshop, organised by the Campaign to End Loneliness on the Tackling Loneliness Hub, looked at communications, marketing and loneliness. There were some really interesting speakers from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, the Co-op Foundation and the Centre for Ageing Better.  You’ll know from my constant chatter that the Centre for Ageing Better has a fantastic and growing Age-positive image library. But on this occasion I was more interested in the work of the Marmalade Trust, who are aiming in quite a proactive way to destigmatise loneliness, and the Co-op Foundation’s Lonely Not Alone campaign which was co-produced with young people in a very genuine way.

I bristled at all this overt talk of loneliness. I thought about all our learning about not saying the word and wondered if we were wrong, but after a few minutes I recognised the events were only superficially similar. There was nothing wrong in our learning about approaching those who were already the most lonely in a way that didn’t scare them off, and that enabled them to join in without taking social risks. 

The second workshop was full of talk about ‘outing’ loneliness. The campaigns were aimed mostly at younger people, so the speakers were able to tackle an audience of mostly ‘digital natives’ – comfortable with the anonymity of sharing online – in a very different way. They were talking about doing the work that needs doing now to help to ensure that maybe we will be less worried about supporting older people who are chronically lonely when these current 25 year-olds are 60. There will no doubt be some of the same triggers for loneliness: people will still leave home to go to university, retire, lose loved ones or change jobs. However, if what these campaigns do works, people will be more confident about recognising the feeling of loneliness and feel more comfortable talking to people about how they feel, asking others for help, or taking some steps to change things for themselves.

If you are interested in the outreach work to the most lonely and missed Jo’s workshop for us, she’s chairing one for the Campaign to End Loneliness in October – sign up on the Hub for full info. There’s also information on reaching out to specific groups on the LOPF website where you’ll find a treasure trove of reports.  I’ve pulled three out for you:

Jessica Duffy
Good Practice Mentor