After getting through the coronavirus pandemic, it seems that Ireland is now facing a loneliness epidemic
We live in a time where people showcase the highlights of their life on social media for the world to see on a daily basis.
We watch, entranced, as people share milestone birthdays, engagements, weddings, pregnancy announcements, births, holidays, nights out, funny family videos and more, surrounded by those they love and, apparently, having the time of their lives.
Depending on how we’re feeling or where we are in our lives, when we watch these videos we experience a range of emotions – from happiness and joy for the person to jealousy and misery that we don’t have the same life.
At the start of June, ALONE – the national organisation supporting older people to age at home – released data showing that Ireland is the loneliest country in Europe.
Let that sink in for a minute. Our beautiful country, renowned for storytellers and sessions, saints and scholars and the ‘Céad Míle Fáilte’ is hurtling head-first into a loneliness epidemic that could have devastating and far-reaching consequences for the physical and mental health of its citizens.
According to the study, over 20% of respondents in Ireland reported feeling lonely most or all of the time, compared to the European average of 13%. For the first three months of 2023, ALONE’s data showed that 36% of older people contacting them had not been out socially in more than a month, and 9% had not been out socially in more than a year. It appears that older people are continuing to isolate themselves, in part due to lingering fears and anxiety relating to the pandemic.
ALONE CEO Seán Moynihan said: “We need the Department of Health to commit resources and expedite work on the action plan to combat loneliness among all age groups. We need funding to be made available in Budget 2024 to deliver the long-awaited action plan and specialised interventions to combat loneliness.”
But it’s important to note – loneliness is not just felt among the older population. It is something we all face at some point in our lives and it’s vital to be aware of it. So, what are the practical steps we can take?
If you are mobile and well enough to do so, why not try one of the following:
- Join a local book club or set one up
- Take an evening class in a subject that interests you
- Volunteer at an animal shelter
- Join a choir (the benefits of this may surprise you)
- Offer to volunteer at a local nursing home – this way you combat your own loneliness and provide company and joy to someone who may not otherwise have any family or visitors
If none of those appeal to you, check out some of these events or initiatives:
The Hike Life Events
Curated and organised by businesswoman and social media influencer, Roz Purcell, these are free events that encourage people to meet and get to know others while enjoying plenty of fresh air and exercise. Follow thehikelife on Instagram for frequent updates.
Galz Gone Wild/Mams Gone Wild
This brilliant initiative reconnects women with nature and the outdoors through hikes, adventures, getaways, workshops and events all across Ireland. The mission is to continue to create an equitable, inclusive and diverse outdoor community. See galzgonewild.com for more details.
Dublin Boys’ Club
This is a nomadic men’s group exploring healthy masculinity where men can learn to communicate better with each other. Born from the creative studio of internationally acclaimed artist, Maser, the club was originally established in response to rising suicide levels, anxiety and depression amongst men. Follow dublinboysclubofficial on Instagram for regular updates about upcoming events.
Women’s Sheds and Men’s Sheds
Women’s Sheds and Men’s Sheds were set up for women and men of all ages to re-connect with themselves and the wider community. A sanctuary for women and men of all ages, they provide company, friendship and support and a much-needed social outlet for members throughout Ireland. See menssheds.ie or the Ireland’s Women’s Sheds Facebook page for more details.
A bit like placing a personal ad on a digital newspaper, this website allows you to advertise for friendship (no dating or adult content) in your area. In the ad, you can state your age, gender if you wish, and what you are looking for, ie. someone to meet for walks, get a coffee, new mum pals etc. See newtotown.ie for more details.
If you would like to be part of the solution to the loneliness epidemic, click on the links below to learn about how you can make a difference: