Loneliness and isolation are words indicate that a person may feel abandoned or left alone against their wishes or choice. However, it is possible to feel lonely or isolated when living with others, maybe even in the company of relatives and friends. Therefore it is important to distinguish between loneliness and being alone. For example there are many occasions when choosing to be alone is an opportunity to be free from group rules and free to write, study or rest.
It is rarely, such as in quarantine wards that people are deliberately isolated.
Over the whole course of our lives from starting school to needing extra care, there are many things that can cause isolation and loneliness. This may include, debilitating illness, the loss of agility, or memory, and dwindling physical strength. In old age, loneliness from the loss of a companion may be reinforced by difficulty in simple daily movements such as opening doors or jars of jam. For older people there are often physical barriers that prevent an individual from joining others. Residents of one home said ‘the fire doors of our flat are too heavy to open so we can’t join groups in the lounge. When the doorsteps into shops are too high we can’t go in, and because taxis are so expensive we often can’t go out.’
It is vital that carers distinguish between loneliness and choosing to be alone, for example assuming that playing Bingo is everyone’s choice when the preference might be to read or do something alone.
Click here to learn more about OPAAL’s efforts to combat loneliness and isloation.