Over the last couple of years, loneliness has been in the news a lot. Last Christmas, the Liverpool Echo reported that 8,000 older people in Liverpool feel alone, and highlighted some of the brilliant ways that people could support their neighbours at lonely times. Around the same time, the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission reported on how we can all 'connect for a kinder tomorrow' to help reduce what many are calling a 'loneliness epidemic' across the country.
Because of those headlines and major documentaries including Channel 4's Old People's Home for 4 Year Olds and BBC 1's The Age of Loneliness, we have become familiar with the heartbreaking reality that nearly 4 million older people in the UK say the TV is their main form of company, and that well over 1 million say they feel 'chronically lonely'.
With loneliness shown to be as bad for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and bringing on strokes, heart attacks, dementia and depression – and with Liverpool's population of people over 65 set to grow by 18% over the next seven years, and already bigger as a proportion of the city's overall population than many other urban centres – we know this is a huge challenge for our city.
But it surprises many people that loneliness is not simply a later life issue. On the contrary, new research has shown that young people are amongst the loneliest groups in the UK. Social media, FOMO, and work, education and housing pressures all play a role.
That dual problem – of many older people feeling left out and many young people feeling distant from community - is even more pronounced in the context or our rapidly changing city. Huge transience in and out of Liverpool leaves some young people feeling they have hundreds of connections but few roots. While half of the new students at Liverpool's four top universities are from the city or other parts of the northwest, another half are from around the country or around the world. In the mix, that can leave many older people feeling they have deep roots but few connections.
Meanwhile, with £1 billion of development projects across the city in 2016 alone, and new buildings under construction all the time, from Chinatown to the Knowledge Quarter, our landscape is changing too: this leaves some older and younger people alike feeling left out – or priced out – of their own city.
There have always been amazing groups doing wonderful things with older and younger people in Liverpool, and Liverpool Cares is working closely with those organisations, as well as councillors, businesses and individuals to bring those two generations – who live side-by-side but can too seldom interact – together.
It's through those deep roots and those new connections that we can be confident that while our city is changing faster than ever before, it will always be that place of solidarity, togetherness, shared experience and community.
Posted by Liverpool Cares on Wednesday 13th June 2018
Liverpool Cares is a community network of young professionals and older neighbours hanging out and helping one another in our rapidly changing city.