Are we losing our feeling of belonging?

Are we losing our feeling of belonging?

Forget terrorism and a lack of savings, feeling lonely is keeping us awake at night according to neuroscientist and cognitive psychologist Dr Lynda Shaw who says isolation of the elderly and the vulnerable is becoming an epidemic and the only solution is trying to rebuild a sense of community that has been largely lost in the UK this century.

“Facebook and online social networks may encourage ‘virtual’ communities but they are no replacement for a sense of community in the real world.  We are turning more and more into a work and electronic gadget obsessed nation, who are losing our green spaces for children to play in and our local amenities, spending less time with our families and with different generations, and older people are losing their independence and dignity.”

Shaw says: “The elderly, the bereaved, the disabled and individuals suffering from either mental or physical illness feel isolated which has a profound effect on their health and well-being and on us as a society. Whilst it is commonly acknowledged that isolation is rife, intervention is not forthcoming and we need to start combatting the growing problem by mixing age groups, religions and so on. We need school classes to visit care homes or go on a meals on wheels outing.  We need different religious groups to socialise.  We need to have more local events raising money for more local projects.

“If we carry on with our day to day lives oblivious to those in need around us, particularly within our own community, we are losing key structures in society including trust, understanding, patience and open-mindedness.

“We are also losing our feeling of belonging.  We are all going to need our community at some point so it is important to give whilst you can, be it something as simple as giving someone a lift somewhere, or knocking on someone’s door for a chat if they know you.”

Shaw describes that whilst over the years a community often changes, sometimes for better but sometimes for the worse, we need to be able to adjust whilst falling back on good old fashioned values of welcoming new neighbours, helping someone in need or hosting a pub quiz for a community project.

October 5th is Silver Sunday which hopes to involve, include and entertain as many of the 3.8 million people over the age of 65 who live alone and to celebrate the value and knowledge they bring to our lives.

There are now more people aged 60 or over, than those under 18 years old.  Many have poor eyesight or hearing issues or are bereaved which increases their isolation.  Shaw says: “If we all do something for an older person on Silver Sunday then we are taking a huge step towards creating a sense of community for the elderly. Write a poem for your grandparents, take your elderly neighbour to the supermarket or host a tea party!”