To be honest, I’m not really a big Beatles fan. But oddly, when it comes to singing songs in the shower, “Eleanor Rigby” with “all the lonely people”, is high up on my top 10 list. I’ve no idea why; perhaps it’s because I can remember all the words.
The song is the same age as me. Yet 50-plus years after its release, loneliness remains an issue we are still trying to understand and tackle.
Even before Coronavirus came along, with all its resulting restrictions on who we could meet-up with and where we could go, the topic of loneliness had been cropping up in our newspapers, on the radio and on TV. We had been hearing more and more about the detrimental impact it could have on people’s mental and physical health and well-being. We also heard 16-24 year olds were twice more likely to experience loneliness than those aged over 75. I think this came as a surprise to many.
But even though we’ve all probably been lonely at some time or other, it’s tended to be just short-lived. I remember when I started at a new junior school, I felt a little bit on my own, lonely and left out. But through netball and meeting like-minded “Bay City Roller fans”, things got better. I got better. I started to feel a part of something. But I never told anyone I’d been feeling lonely.
The pandemic has brought loneliness to the fore. Those social connections we were used to making most days – walking to school with our mates; saying hello to familiar faces on the train; coming into work and chatting at the photocopier as you try to work out why the paper has got stuck again; looking forward to catching up with friends at a day centre or popping around for a chat – all of those things just vanished. And in so doing many began to feel lonely.
What the pandemic also brought to the fore is how strong community spirit can be and how organisations can come together to bring about a positive change. I think this came as a surprise to many too.
With loneliness, community togetherness and collaborative working all being in the spot-light, I think events like this one being held by the WCPP are so important in helping us to learn and move on for the better.
Little did we know when we published “Connected Communities” our loneliness and social isolation strategy in February 2020 what was lurking around the corner. Throughout the pandemic our strategy advisory group made up of colleagues from the statutory and third sectors and grass-roots organisations has been vital in helping us in Welsh Government to make sure we continue to tackle loneliness together.
So, if John, Paul, George or Ringo were to ask me “all the lonely people, where do they all come from?” I can say, they come from our communities but here in Wales we are working together to make sure they know they are part of our community too.
About the author
Ali Wood is a Senior Engagement Officer (Loneliness and Social Isolation) at Welsh Government