This is a piece I wrote about loneliness.
You are not blind, you can see, you have no white stick, no dark glasses,
So why do you not see me?
You look, but you don’t see,
I am elderly, not invisible
Daily I struggle into town,
Hoping my failing mobility won’t let me down.
l need is food for my soul, a smile, some conversation my only goal.
But you walk straight past, you don’t see,
Your life is so fast, busy, busy,
Little time for anyone, even less me!
I am not invisible – You can see me.
Please take a moment, to pause and smile
Something, no-one has done for a while.
Your exchange of emotion, a gesture of goodwill
Ensures my faith in human kindness still.
Meaning it is ok to grow old, society not hostile and cold
Like a hospital ward,
Where I will end up with depression because I’m bored.
Share my table in the tea room,
Your company alone, will lift my gloom.
Tell me your story, I will share mine,
Mine may be longer as I’ve had more time.
My tales of war, battles and struggle,
Dementia’s not far away, and sometimes words muddle.
Next time you see me or someone else alone,
Give them a smile, don’t share it on loan,
Retail automation means there’s nobody there,
I shop for my soul, not ‘cos the cupboards are bare.
Please step back a moment and take some time
One day this woe won’t be mine,
It will be yours, and how you may hope,
Others may have the humanity to help you cope.
I wrote this after I walked past an elderly woman struggling into Exmouth, I said “Hello” and thought then that I may be one of the very few people to speak to her or even acknowledge her that day. Imagine life where your only conversation is one way from a TV or radio.
We have all seen the media reports about loneliness and how it is more detrimental to someone’s health than smoking. It is estimated that 2.4 million adults in the UK are lonely much of the time, with the Independent calling it “Britain’s most lethal condition”.
In 2015 Recovery Devon gave me funding to create and distribute my ‘Happy to Share’ Cards designed to encourage people to share tables in public places and meet people. The notion of loneliness is not new by any means but with the continued closure of banks, libraries, and more and more retail automation – the opportunity for conversation and human interaction is shrinking.
We have more means than ever to communicate which has reduced the basic need for conversation. Sad how progress results in backward steps. More initiatives are being encouraged thanks to charities such as Independent Age and the Jo Cox Foundation, but it should be down to each and every one of us to speak to people and not rely on organisations.
If my thoughts have made you think, please do something. Together we can really make a difference.