Adeela Warley: We need a conversation about loneliness

Rooted in local communities, charities are well placed to get to grips with a problem that affects people of all ages, writes our columnist

Adeela Warley
Adeela Warley

My last article celebrated tech for good and the charities that harness digital innovation to bring people together to solve pressing problems. Now, in contrast, my thoughts have turned back to the most fundamental of all human interactions – the conversation. This is where we listen, exchange information, express empathy and build genuine connections with friends, family and colleagues.

The news that the government has appointed charities minister Tracey Crouch to take forward the work of the Commission on Loneliness is welcome. An Age UK survey revealed that 360,000 people aged 65 and over had not had a proper conversation with friends or family for a week, and 200,000 had gone without for a month.

But loneliness affects people of all ages. Those affected often find it hard to speak out and are too embarrassed to tell their family or friends how they are feeling. This is where charities come into their own. Rooted in local communities, they can provide a human face, personal contact and the conversations that save lives. Charities such as Age UK, Action for Children, Sense and the Bristol-based Marmalade Trust provide advice and services from lunch clubs, befriending projects or pioneering house shares that unite different generations under one roof to talk, cook, eat and socialise together.

Many of these services rely on volunteers. By offering people ways to get involved and to be their best selves, charities can engage new generations of supporters and change lives.

Perhaps more conversations, listening and understanding between charities, government and regulators would put the needs of people first and help to forge a transformational partnership for social good.

Adeela Warley is chief executive of CharityComms

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