The man who talked to chairs – social isolation during the pandemic

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The clocks ‘went back’ on 25th October. Some saw this as having an extra hour in bed on that particular Sunday morning, whilst others genuinely fear the encroachment of the early dark afternoons.  

The following week saw the highest recorded levels of extreme loneliness, since the first lockdown began in March, according to the Office for National Statistics figures. Millions of people, young and old, are facing loneliness, isolation and separation during the present lockdown. 

Statistical overview 

This may not be entirely unexpected – but it doesn’t make it all right. Loneliness is a serious issue, affecting up to 45% of the UK’s population ‘occasionally, sometimes or often’.  Here are some key facts to ponder: 

  • Pre-pandemic surveys showed about 5% of adults to be ‘always or often’ lonely – that’s about 2.6 million people. 
  • It’s estimated that in early November, with the darker evenings, 8% of adults were either ‘always or often lonely’ – that’s 4.2 million. More than 60% higher than pre-lockdown.  

How about Norfolk then? Even before Covid-19 we knew that at least 40,000 people of all ages in our county suffered from loneliness. Of a population of 900,000 that’s about 4.5% even before the pandemic. The slide into winter can be a significant additional contributory factor which, with less daylight and cold weather, further reduces the opportunity to get outside. 

Who’s at risk? 

Loneliness and social isolation are of course particular risk factors for the older generation in terms of their mental health and wellbeing. And older people living on their own and, or have long-term health conditions or mobility issues, are of course most vulnerable.  

But It affects all ages too. Nationally, young people are particularly likely to feel isolated, with16 to 29-year-olds twice as likely as the over-70s to be experiencing loneliness during the pandemic. National figures also show that 5% of all adults - representing 2.6 million people - had not left their homes in the previous seven days. 

What is CAN doing?  

CANConnect sees us working with partner agencies, including Future Projects and Norfolk County Council, across the North Norfolk district of Norfolk and Waveney CCG to help connect people with activities in their locality, as well as providing individuals with one-to-one support. in identifying and achieving their personal goals. CANConnect also helps community organisations and has awarded financial grants to local groups.  

Operation No Cold Shoulder runs in partnership with Age UK Norfolk, Creative Arts East, Future Projects, and West Norfolk Befriending. Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, it offers support to people in designated locations across the county. 

And CAN’s growing network of Good Neighbour Schemes provides essential points of contact for isolated and vulnerable people of all age groups in communities across Norfolk.   

Further information 

Other VCSE and public sector agencies are also of course very active in tackling loneliness. Find out what Norfolk County Council offers here and read about the In Good Company campaign, of which CAN is a member, here.