It’s a profoundly tragic fact that in today’s society, loneliness, living alone and poor social connections can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and worse for you than obesity^. In fact, it’s estimated that nine million people in the UK across all adult ages are either ‘always’ or ‘often’ lonely*. Currently some 1.2 million older people in the UK are classified as chronically lonely In terms of our aging population – one that is living longer than ever – with the number of over-50s experiencing loneliness set to reach two million by 2025/6 – a 49% increase in just 10 years**.

It’s because of this that, for my contribution to Jellybean’s 12 Days of Giving, I have decided to enrol as a telephone volunteer for Independent Age – a charity that provides free information and advice for older people and their families on care and support, money and benefits and health and mobility, alongside offering friendship services to relieve loneliness. The latter being where I – as a dispenser of semi-mundane flummery – thought I could add the most value.

In truth, the outreach is some of the most important work that the charity undertakes. Which is why I have already completed a half day of adult safeguarding training, alongside a course on common issues affecting older people, exploring good conversational practice, boundaries and some of the operational requirements with a view to making my first call in the coming weeks. It is, quite rightly, a stringent process and one I have signed up to be part of for the entirety of 2020. One hour a week for a year; it’s an infinitesimal sacrifice that could mean so much to the older person I connect with. As such I can’t wait to get started.

^Holt-Lunstad, 2010
*Age UK 2018