We can take for granted how much the internet gives us a sense of connection to one another. But a huge proportion of people over the age of 65 never or hardly ever use the internet, leaving this age group out of the loop of social connection. It is this sense of connection that can become increasingly important in older age, in part due to ill health, retirement and bereavement.
The internet’s power to invisibly connect a large proportion of the population has perhaps conversely contributed to the decline and disappearance of many of the traditional real life places where people can meet, face-to-face, in the flesh. Places such as high street shops, pubs and banks. It is in small towns and villages, where there are also often poor transport links, that these places of face-to-face connection are disappearing and people can feel trapped and isolated.
These are all issues introduced in Radio 4’s recent programme “The Fix – Loneliness in the Countryside” where some of the country’s “Brilliant minds” gathered to discuss and come up with solutions to the problem of loneliness in the small town Tetbury in Gloucestershire. Solutions that were discussed centred around the ideas of skills sharing between generations and on the opportunity for those experiencing loneliness to feel more connected if they themselves could help another person experiencing difficulty.
Rural isolation is a massive issue that we find in Archway, a charity which supports adults experiencing loneliness. Poor transport links as well as ill health prevent people from accessing our supportive social groups in Oxford and Abingdon and as such many people on our one-to-one befriending waiting list are from smaller towns and villages. It is with the help of volunteers in these areas that we can begin to connect those (of all adult ages) feeling isolated with one-to-one befrienders who regularly visit these people in their own homes, offering companionship and a listening ear. Many of our volunteers have themselves experienced the pain of loneliness and volunteering has helped them to feel more connected themselves. But we need help to spread the word. Do you know anyone in the following areas who could offer their time?…
Didcot, Grove, Stanton St John, Berinsfield, Farmoor, Cumnor, Great Milton, Wallingford, Chalgrove, Bicester, Thame, Bampton, Kingston Bagpuize, Steeple Aston, Blewbury
Behind each place name there is at least one person waiting to meet a befriender and so begin the journey away from loneliness and isolation, towards friendship and social connection.