Marjorie Barker blogs about “overwhelming” loneliness she felt in later life, what she did to combat it and the importance of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.
When you’re alone, you feel that you can’t achieve anything. This is why the work of Age UK and the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness is so important.
Nobody anticipates loneliness, it just happens. For me it came a decade ago, when my husband Alan developed vascular dementia and I became his carer. Not only did the man I had shared so much with no longer recognise me, but I also lost contact with everything and everyone I had known before. I couldn’t go out, as Alan could not be left alone.
Meaningful conversation was no longer possible with my husband, and for seven years my main form of human interaction came at Alan’s appointments at the memory clinic.
When Alan went into a care home three years ago, my loneliness became overwhelming. Caring for Alan had provided my life with meaning, but now I was left alone, with no idea how to reconnect to my life as it had been seven years before. I came to feel that my loneliness was inescapable. My confidence plummeted and I rarely left the house; I found it so difficult to venture out alone.
Thankfully, one afternoon I decided to attend an older person’s event in the local town hall. It was this afternoon that changed my life.
At the event, we were told about Age UK’s Reconnections programme at the Simply Limitless Wellbeing Centre. The programme reconnects isolated older people in my situation with the wider community by supporting us to go out and meet with others.
I was introduced to a wonderful group of people and together we attend exercise classes, have lunch and take part in community singing, all at the Simply Limitless Wellbeing Centre.
A whole new world of possibilities has been opened up to me, which even a few weeks ago I would never have believed possible. I now have so many people with whom I can chat, laugh and be happy with. Reconnections has returned to me a zest for life which I thought had disappeared forever. I have formed wonderful new friendships and feel as if I’ve become part of a warm and loving family.
I still really miss the conversations I used to have with my husband. I visit Alan regularly, but sadly chatting is impossible. My husband was such a clever man and it is awful to watch his brain torture him. However, Age UK has also matched me with a Reconnections volunteer – the lovely Charlie who is only 25. She contacts me every week with a phone call or visit; I really enjoy her company and our conversations help to lift my spirits.
I would like to thank everyone who has helped to raise awareness of loneliness amongst older people during this spotlight month. Whether this was raising awareness for services that tackle loneliness such as Reconnections, volunteering to befriend a lonely older person or simply starting a conversation with an older person in your community. I am so grateful to Reconnections for making me realise that loneliness in later life is not inevitable. By supporting Age UK and the Jo Cox Commission, you too will have helped to change the lives of thousands of older people across the UK who are no longer suffering alone.