The words ‘isolation’ and ‘loneliness’ are often used interchangeably, but there is more to it than you might think.
Loneliness is when someone considers the number and quality of their social interactions as unacceptable. Loneliness isn’t simply being alone or isolated, as many people enjoy this at times, but is the feeling of wanting more, socially. Some people can have many healthy relationships yet still feel lonely.
We consider isolation to be a situation where someone has difficulty in getting out of the house and fulfilling their social and other needs. This could be due to mobility problems, lack of transport access, an isolated location or a combination of all of these and more.
Loneliness is a feeling, while isolation is an objective situation.
How does isolation affect people?
Most of us will feel isolated at different points in our lives, and it can have a knock-on effect on our mental and physical health. We are social beings, so living in isolation can leave us with feelings of anxiety and sadness, or even depression.
Isolation can prevent us getting to the health services we need, or create a barrier to seeing friends and relatives. This can be due to a loss of confidence, and the longer we are isolated, the more daunting it can be to overcome those barriers.
Many of our clients have been used to an active social life, independently getting themselves where they need to go and not asking for anyone’s help. Surgery, ill health or the loss of their partner can leave them vulnerable and struggling to maintain social links, at a time when they need it most. It is often when people experience major life changes that they are referred to us. We help people to adapt to these changes and move confidently into the future.
How can I help isolated older people?
You can tactfully check in on them, signpost them to services that could help, and listen to their thoughts and feelings. This can be enough to lift someone out of their isolation and bring the outside world in.
We all want to be listened to and heard, and that is why our Befriending work is so important to our clients.
Our volunteer Befrienders love what they do. They listen without judgement, building trust over time through regular contact.
A friendly face and a kind word, shared stories and bursts of laughter – these are the moments that enhance peoples’ lives, and we are here to help create them.