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Help and support for those experiencing loneliness

               How can we make the inward journey to discover        ‘Impatient people expect the real                            The Campaign to                     The Silver Line
             our deepest selves as we move in and out of a variety of   thing to happen somewhere else,                           End Loneliness                      confidential helpline
             situations? It’s something Jesus shared with us. It’s tempting
             to see him as having had an easy hotline to God, and no   and therefore they want to get
             need to grapple with getting this balance, yet the Gospels   away from the present situation
             tell us that he frequently needed to go away on his own.
               Particularly striking is the story that followed Jesus          and go elsewhere’.
             healing Peter’s mother-in-law, and then the neighbourhood
             crowding round him, bringing all their needs. He gets up   Henri Nouwen
             in the middle of the night, and goes off to be alone. Early
             in the morning, his friends wake up and realise he’s not   Finding My Way Home
             there. What do they do? They go searching for him. When
             they find him, disturbing his peace and contemplation, and                                                           The Campaign to End Loneliness      In August 2011, Dame Esther
             apparently oblivious of the fact they have crashed into the   imagine that if we were somewhere else, we could better   inspires thousands of organisations   Rantzen DBE (who founded the
             time he so desperately needs, they announce, ‘Everyone is   solve the cause of our discomfort. In this perception, lies a   and people to do more to tackle   children’s helpline ChildLine
             looking for you!’                                    myriad of imagined potential rejections and all-consuming       the health threat of loneliness in   in 1986), wrote a newspaper
               It reminds me of a mother of young children who told   loneliness. What Nouwen calls ‘active waiting’ makes sense   older age.                         article about the loneliness she
             me how she would occasionally feign constipation, to get   of the reality; he says that ‘Waiting is never a movement                                     had experienced since being          ‘…loneliness is a
             some time alone!                                     from nothing to something. It is always a movement from         The Campaign to End Loneliness      bereaved, and living alone.          subject we need to talk
                                                                  something to something more.... To wait with openness and       is a network of national, regional                                       about, because unless
             A planned isolation                                  trust is an enormously radical attitude toward life.’           and local organisations and         In response, letters flooded in and   we do, we can never
             Aloneness in this context is more than getting a bit of time   Moments are so much easier to manage than hours or    people working together through     Dame Esther said: ‘…loneliness is
             to ourselves, though. It’s about an intention to be still,   days; if we begin with moments of aloneness with God,   community action, good practice,    a subject we need to talk about,     solve it. And solve it we
             really present in the moment: actively waiting, not passively   they may grow into longer spells – but they will always be   research and policy to ensure   because unless we do, we can     must. Because what was
             letting time pass.                                   moments, just joined up. If we take the risk of setting aside   that loneliness is acted upon as a   never solve it. And solve it we     most clear from your
               In the moment, we encounter God who can only be    the moments for aloneness and silence, we will experience       public health priority at national   must. Because what was most clear
             found in the present moment. In the moment, we encounter  the realization that it is in this state that we become most   and local levels.               from your letters is that loneliness   letters is that loneliness
             ourselves at a profound level and without judgement. For   aware of how un-alone we really are, as the powerful                                          is all around us, yet too often it   is all around us, yet
             too much of our lives, we are living in the past or the future   sense of the presence of God, our connection to others   Launched in 2011, they are     remains invisible.’                  too often it remains
             and that’s not really living at all.                 and to creation, grows in the space around our stillness.       governed by five partner
               As Henri Nouwen puts it in his book Finding My Way   Underpinning our aloneness, there needs to be belonging;      organisations: Age UK Oxfordshire,   As a result, Paul Burstow, (then    invisible.’
             Home: ‘Impatient people expect the real thing to happen   even hermits belong to communities.                        Independent Age, Manchester City    Minister of State for Care Services),
             somewhere else, and therefore they want to get away    It is this belonging (with God, the world, each other:        Council, Royal Voluntary Service    hosted a round-table seminar on      Dame Esther Rantzen DBE
             from the present situation and go elsewhere’. I would add   these are all interconnected) that underpins our lives of   and Sense, and work alongside    1st February 2012, chaired by
             that anxious people do the same thing but for different   prayer, our aloneness and our loneliness.                  more than 2,500 supporters, all     Esther Rantzen, at which many of    transfer them to specialist services
             reasons; when the cause of the anxiety is not a concrete                                                             tackling loneliness in older age.   the major voluntary organisations   to protect them from harm.
             reality in front of our eyes, it is difficult to confront and   1   Matthew 4:1.                                                                         working with older people were
             dispel. We might imagine it is somewhere else, or we might   2   The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue by W H Auden.  But loneliness is not just a symptom   represented.                   Since its national launch, The Silver
                                                                                                                                  associated with ageing. The                                            Line Helpline has received over
                                                                                                                                  Campaign to End Loneliness also     From these discussions The Silver   one million calls. Over two-thirds of
                                                                                                                                  have a well-researched report on    Line charity was launched later    these calls – around 700,000 – were
                                                                                                                                  their website, showing that the cost   that year. The need to support   made overnight or at weekends
                                                                                                                                  to the UK economy through loss      those experiencing loneliness was   when no other helpline is available
                                                                                                                                  of productivity in the workplace is   echoed through a survey by the   for older people who may be
                                                                                                                                  estimated at £2.5billion each year.   Campaign to End Loneliness which   lonely, isolated or confused.
                                                                                                                                                                      showed that 42% of older people
                                                                                                                                  This major new study published      reported that if they need help,   The charity now receives around
                                                                                                                                  in February 2017, was jointly       they feel alone and do not know    10,000 calls every week from
                                                                                                                                  commissioned with the Co-op         where to turn.                     lonely and isolated older people
                                                                                                                                  and compiled by New Economics                                          with 53% of callers saying they
                                                                                                                                  Foundation.                         The charity provides three         have literally no-one else to speak
                                                                                                                                                                      functions to support older people:  to. The Silver Line is the only free,
                                                                                                                                  Findings show that four key         •  a sign-posting service to link   confidential helpline providing
                                                                                                                                  impacts contribute to the cost to    them into the many, varied        information, friendship and advice
                                                             ‘For too much of our lives, we are                                   the economy: absence from work       services that exist around the    to older people, which is available
                                                                                                                                  as a direct result of loneliness;
                                                                                                                                                                                                         for callers 24 hours a day and every
                                                             living in the past or the future and                                 having to care for another’s needs;   •  a befriending service to combat   day of the year.
                                                             that’s not really living at all.’                                    lost productivity; higher staff      loneliness.
                                                                                                                                  turnover. You can download a free   •  a means of empowering those     For more information, go to:
                                                                                                                                  copy of the 56-page study at:        who may be suffering abuse and
                                                                                                                                       neglect, and if appropriate to    Helpline: 0800 4 70 80 90.

             10  The Plain Truth  Spring-Summer 2017                                                                                                                                                         Spring-Summer 2017  The Plain Truth    11
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