Editor's Viewpoint: We need more help to combat loneliness
There are times of the year when we think of those people in society who live a lonely life. The obvious dates are Christmas, which is traditionally a time for families to gather together and New Year, which we hope will bring us all fresh hope and cheer.
But loneliness is a year-round condition for many people. The reasons can be multi-fold - the death of a spouse or partner; the movement away of family; being the last remaining member of a family or unable to leave the home often because of illness or disability.
One only has to read our features today to see the affect loneliness can have on a person. The man whose wife died existed rather than lived for a long time afterwards. Every day, as he said, was Groundhog Day, doing the same meaningless things, which only exacerbated his loneliness.
Then there was the woman whose crippling ailments confined her to her home except to visit her GP, pick up medicines or shop for food.
By their own admission their lives were empty. They missed the normal interaction with other people and as each day dragged by they became more and more introverted.
The most important thing in such circumstances is somehow to break the monotony of daily life. And fortunately there is help at hand for people who are alone.
Organisations like the Men's Shed initiative or community organisations supported by the Big Lottery Fund help bring those who are alone together with others in similar circumstances. These are invaluable facilities and those who take part in their activities ranging from new hobbies to simple conversations find a new lease of life.
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Once more they find a purpose on life, a reason to leave their home a couple of days a week and new friends to look forward to meeting. These are things that we all take for granted but which are denied to many through circumstances beyond their control.
We also carry the poignant story of an elderly woman who was recently bereaved and who was advised to seek counselling. However, when she contacted the recommended organisation she was told there was a six-month waiting list for an appointment and had to resort to reading bereavement literature.
Her grief is immense at the loss of her husband and although she has had support from family members grief is a journey that she has to travel along on her own, a very personal process.