Is there an easy way to ‘fix’ loneliness?
One of our questions right at the start of the Time to Shine project was about ‘trigger points’. Not the things everyone was already pretty clear about - those things that have the potential to trigger loneliness: bereavement, moving house, retirement and others.
What we wanted to identify was whether there were any triggers our delivery partners could identify that might be used to reduce social isolation and loneliness.
We were not able to identify any quick fixes. There seemed to be no specific moment when it would be easy to step in and change something. We did learn some valuable lessons though.
What we were able to identify with the help of our partners was that many of the things they were already doing could be used more consciously to great effect - offering volunteering opportunities, a diverse range of activities and support to get to them.
We identified people who were helped at three stages in their life - transition points - those triggers we noted above. Some people were able to approach these points of change and with a bit of help see what steps they might need to take for themselves - whether that is a conscious effort to set new routines in retirement, or to get back out into the community after bereavement because you know it will help you even when you may not feel like it. Other people recognised a need to change something and asked for help - they took up volunteering or started a new hobby, did something they had always thought about doing. What helped them was a person-centred approach; they needed to identify something they wanted to do.
The people in the final group were those who were chronically lonely or socially isolated for some reason - they needed a lot more help. For that group it wasn’t as simple as signposting to an activity and making sure they made some connections when they got there. There were practical problems to be solved, getting out of the house in the first place perhaps; and then there were the issues of lack of confidence or mental health problems which might have caused the isolation or be the result of it. For this group what was important was a human contact who they could build some trust with, then help with practical issues, and then they were able to take advantage of activities and groups on offer.
Partners also identified that the sooner they were able to offer support to someone who needed it, the easier it would be to help them regain the confidence they needed to do what they wanted.
Time to Shine Learning Facilitator