For most of us, our daily lives are punctuated with regular social contact with others, whether at home, at work, or in our social lives. But just stop for a second and try to imagine living your life, trapped day after day in your home with little ability to get out and with the prospect of no callers to come by and spent time with you.
Loneliness affects people of all ages but may be a particular challenge for the elderly. Reduced mobility, lack of confidence and a decreasing number of family and friends locally can all contribute to making their lives increasingly solitary.
Research from the University of Sterling suggests that the impact of loneliness can be quite catastrophic for some people. Their findings suggest that loneliness can be as big a factor in reducing life expectancy in the elderly as smoking, obesity and alcohol.
At Home Instead we meet many seniors in their own homes and we frequently find that aside from the physical needs our clients require assistance with (washing, dressing and meal preparation etc.) their real desire is for a bit of basic companionship; someone to have a conversation with, to reminisce with; basically someone to look forward to spending time with. Many tell us that days can pass without visitors and with little or no contact with the outside world.
This is something we can all do something about. We all have within our local communities, elderly family members, neighbours and acquaintances who would appreciate an occasional visit from a friendly and familiar face. Taking a few minutes from your schedules to be a companion to someone local may not actually be that big a deal for you. It can however be a big deal and have a really positive impact on the person you spend some time with.
Phil Keohane is owner & director of Home Instead in Reading