Being Together…Listed on October 15, 2014 in Blogs!
Some of you may have heard a series of features on the Today programme – Radio 4 – about loneliness. Perhaps understandably, most of them focused on loneliness in older people although not exclusively so. We know the usual scenarios, children move away, retire to a different part of the country, partner dies, can’t drive, poor local transport, money is tight etc. The internet is no solution really because it isn’t the same as human contact. We are all fundamentally social animals and we need social interaction on a daily basis. Of course, when we are younger this comes from journeys to the school gate, from a busy family life perhaps and from work. Some rich socialisation comes through what I call ‘communities of interest’ such as singing in a choir, playing bridge, bowls or volunteering; but this is not for everyone. That’s why access to a local library is important and access to opportunities through adult education is so effective. Sadly, adult education is almost completely absent from any political agenda and yet it could be a terrific tool for addressing the problem of loneliness if only to provide a gateway to further social engagement. Loneliness is seen as a private problem but it is a problem nevertheless with consequences for society and the public purse. As for access to libraries? Well, as we know, politicians mess with local libraries at their peril. So maybe we should look beyond book clubs and open libraries way beyond existing hours and do something really daring. But, oh dear, that would take some money and some imagination.