Posts Tagged ‘social isolation’

Living Alone and Loneliness::II. Enjoying Our Own Company

Jun 13 2013

… Choosing to Live alone without having to feel lonely.

Making more social contact through meeting other people is an important way to reduce the feelings of inner loneliness which we can all feel from time to time, and research shows that the more social support we have the less are the risks of unhealthy outcomes (whether or not we live alone).

If we are living alone, purposively creating and enjoying the social networks we want are essential for our wellbeing (for more see Stepping UP and Stepping Out) . However, periods of time spent alone and on our own can be also very rewarding for their own sake, the source of great personal satisfaction, and provide opportunities for much contentment and pleasure. Try some of these ideas:

1. Plan and make a special visit to somewhere you have always wanted to go to.

2. Cook yourself a special meal using a more complicated recipe than usual and celebrate making a special evening to enjoy on your own (The meal doesn’t need to include alcohol)!

3. Learn techniques like meditation or join a yoga class. Mindfulness practice and paying attention to your breathing, especially at the level of the tummy and watching your abdomen move with the breath can help your mind become less busy and frantic in just 5 to 10 minutes. Developing this practice over time the periods of feeling inner peace and tranquility will increase, regardless of whether you are on your own or with other people. To find a properly trained mindfulness teacher near you, go to – recommended organisations include

4. Cultivate qualities of loving kindness towards others, but especially towards yourself (this can feel quite strange to begin with – particularly if you are used to being self-critical!). Also bring to mind and practice absent healing for people you care about, and then the world in general. This is the easiest and most natural thing to do using your own breath to create waves of warmth radiating out from your heart, and relaxing and opening the heart increases your sense of connection with others regardless of whether or not you are on your own. “I am larger and better than I thought. I did not know I held so much goodness.” Try Jack Kornfield’s site for a safe and non-prescriptive approach .

5. Keep a journal – take 20 to 30 minutes first thing in the morning to write down your thoughts and feelings, however jumbled or disorganised these may feel at the time. You may find that you begin to reframe living alone as a positive experience, and you can also begin to leave more of the difficult or negative feelings there on the page. This can help stop the habit of negative messages about loneliness or isolation dominating your life narrative, and continually running on and on in your mind. For more on ‘Words for Wellbeing’ visit .

If you find that you are feeling lonely and miserable a lot of the time living on your own, you may not be depressed but it can be helpful to explore ways of breaking the negative cycle – check out Mind UK Maybe it is also time for you to find a peer group meeting (including Men’s Groups). When you feel ready – ie you feel that there is enough safety in the group for you to speak – simply naming it can be a great source of relief, and help you let go of the lonely feelings. It can also be the beginning of intimacy with others, which actually can then support and reinforce positively your preference to live on your own.

Living Alone and Loneliness: I. Stepping Up and Stepping Out

Jun 13 2013

 Stats show that more men in their 40’s and 50’s are living alone – the Office  of National Statistics data records that 1.3 million middle-aged men in the UK are living alone. Part of the reason is due to the decline of marriage (down from 79% of men in this age group in 1996 to 69% in 2012), higher divorce rates, the social and economic situation (effecting work), and lifestyle choices – both men and women are getting choosier about who they want to live with!

Is living alone a problem for older men? Research shows that isolation is not good for us and loneliness can become an unhealthy experience, increasing the risk of mental health problems and depression in particular. However, there is also a difference between outer and inner loneliness, although of course the two are closely linked.

So here are ways to help explore both outer and inner loneliness, and to help make living alone not become a problem for us: Stepping Out and Stepping Out and Enjoying Our Own Company.

I. Stepping Up and Stepping Out … Balance your choice to live alone with getting out and about:

1. Start with small steps – If you live alone or you feel you are spending too much time on your own, break the habit by going out for a walk in your local area or town, and say ‘Hello’ or ‘Good Morning’ to some of the people you recognise (including shopkeepers and cashiers).

2. Make more of a habit of having short conversations with people you know – small conversations accumulate into bigger ones (including phone calls and email). If you are out of practice talking socially, start by asking people about themselves and what they are most interested in.

3. Try to have some face-to-face meetings rather than only talking on the phone -if you are in a new group or crowd, don’t be embarrassed if you are being mostly quiet, feeling shy, or having difficult feelings about joining in. This is something EVERYBODY feels at the beginning.

4. Care about your appearance when you go out, and especially what you wear – try wearing different clothes to express yourself personality positively. For encouragement see What Ali Wore , or explore ‘inspiring menswear’ ideas at!

5. Join the UK Shed Movement – Hang out with other men, relax and have some laughs, without having to talk a lot if you don’t want to, or do anything special together.

6. Think about the things that genuinely interest you – there will likely be social groups of like-minded souls to share your experience, values, and interests:

– Walking groups (,

– Laughing more (eg ‘laughter yoga’!

– Being a Performer: get into song  (eg ‘Tonsils’ listing of 3,000+ UK choirs, or dance ( – and then there’s Strictly Come Dancing celebrity Len Goodman (aged 68) !)

– Learning, participating, and using your brain: Google ‘adult and community classes’ for your area, or for a self-help approach to learning join the University of the Third Age

– Being a Campaigner: join the ageactionalliance , and participate in the ‘Campaign to End Loneliness’

– Being a Volunteer:  join the Royal Voluntary Service The RVS recently dropped the ‘W’ in its title, as it now has more than 6,000 male volunteers. According to RVS research 3 million men are interested in volunteer work in the UK.

– Sharing your life experience, special skills and particular passions: join theamazings!

2013 Top 65 World Thinkers!

May 13 2013

Last month Prospect Magazine  asked its readers and online followers to vote for their choice of the 2013 top 65 World Thinkers. Online  polling produced 10,000 responders from over 100 countries.

The results for the top 10 are: all MEN, all OVER 50 (4 are over 80!!!), and the winner is very active on Twitter (it is Richard Dawkins who has over 600,000 followers)!

OK, so perhaps you feel “sniffy” about this way of straw-polling, but maybe it is worth thinking about both for reflecting about ourselves individually and also the implications for our network:

1. One of the MB50’s network main aims is to help older men who are feeling isolated, irrelevant and invisible stand up and be seen. The whole picture for older men is a rich mosaic, and looking at the success stories is important to see what they tell us. I am not so much interested in the ‘top thinker’ focus of this poll, but I am excited and curious about the social networks that support all these men and find out what are the crucial difference that this makes in their lives.

2. The most popular thinkers are the most contentious, but I am also aware of the shadow side of this in an all male list. The top woman thinker was Arundhati Roy who ranked 15 (the novelist who now works now as a leading activist for social justice and campaigner against inequality in modern India). The MB50 network is very conscious of the need when it comes to elderhood and speaking out that this is about men and women finding a common maturing voice together.

3. The polling process demonstrates the growing importance of Social Media for older people: over 50% of  the 10,000 voters used Twitter or Facebook to register their vote

4. Absences from the list are as revealing as the familiar top names. Scientists and Nobel Prize winners dominate the list, but environmental thinkers and climate scientists are conspicuously absent from the top ten list (…but then so were leading thinkers on internet technology!). There was also nobody from Africa, China, or indeed from Latin America, reflecting both cultural bias (as well as the particular distribution of Prospect Magazine readers)

Here is Prospect’s list of Top 10 World Thinkers 2013:

1. Richard Dawkins

Evolutionary biologist,he thrives as an intellectual in the internet age: prolific on Twitter, with more than half a million followers—and his success in this poll attests to his popularity online. He uses this platform to promote his secularist views, and to promote science and rationalism. However, he’s not averse to poking fun at himself: in March he made a guest appearance on The Simpsons, lending his voice to a demon version of himself.

2. Ashraf Ghani

Economist specialising in state building, conducting research at Columbia, Berkeley and Johns Hopkins, followed by a stint at the World Bank. From Afghanistan he has also served as the country’s finance minister and advised the UN on the transfer of power to the Afghans. He is already looking beyond the current crisis in Syria, raising important questions about what kind of state it will eventually become.

3. Steven Pinker

Psychologist and Harvard professor with a long list of popular books to his name. In his latest – “The Better Angels of Our Nature” he takes a scientific view of history to argue that humanity has become less violent over time. Much debated!

4. Ali Allawi

Economist at the World Bank and then at Princeton. From Iraq, he has also served as  minister of trade, finance and defence there after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Since then he has written a pair of acclaimed books, most recently The Crisis of Islamic Civilisation.

5. Paul Krugman

Economist, Nobel prize winner and fierce critic of the economic policies of the right. He is leading voice today against fiscal austerity and advocate of Keynesian economics. Regular New York Times columnist with a big following, and so widely discussed!

6. Slavoj Žižek

Intellectual and philospher renowned for activist approach and comic one-liners (“If you ask me for really dangerous ideological films, I’d say Kung Fu Panda,” he told one interviewer in 2008). He divides opinion, being regarded as hero or villain.

7. Amartya Sen

Social Scientist and development economist, receiving the Nobel prize for economics in 1998, he was praised for having “restored an ethical dimension to the discussion of vital economic problems.”

8. Peter Higgs

The English physicist Peter Higgs lent his name to the Higgs boson, the subatomic particle discovered last year at Cern that gives mass to other elementary particles.

9. Mohamed ElBaradei

The former director general of the UN’s international atomic energy agency and winner of the 2005 Nobel peace prize, Mohamed ElBaradei has become one of the most prominent advocates of democracy in Egyptian politics over the past two years.

10. Daniel Kahneman

Psychologist with focus on behavioural economics (Nobel prize 2002), Thinking, Fast and Slow  (2011) about the irrational elements built into our decision making has become a bestseller.


Single men over 50 most socially isolated, says study

Oct 27 2012

One in six people in England over the age of 50 are socially isolated, play little part in the cultural or civic life of their society and have abandoned socially-oriented hobbies, according to a sobering new study into our ageing society.

Single men are the most likely group to live a solitary, cut-off life after 50, while the poorer someone is, the more likely they are to lose touch with their social network in old age.

The findings come in the latest report of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), an extensive, long-term investigation into the effects of ageing on the population’s economic, social and psychological life. The study, which is led by researchers at University College London (UCL), has followed 10,000 participants since 2002.

Analysing the impact ageing has on individuals social engagement, researchers found that social isolation is more common in rural areas and that poor access to transport links was a major factor in cutting off older people. Decreased participation in leisure activities was another cause of isolation – particularly among women.

The report also revealed an extraordinary link between enjoyment of life in younger years, and a healthy, social old age. Participants who said they were enjoying life when surveyed ten years ago were not only more likely to still be alive ten  years later, but had a lesser chance of developing serious illnesses, disabilities and even reduced walking speeds. Three times as many people in the “lower enjoyment” group of people surveyed ten years ago, had died in the intervening years, than people in the “greater enjoyment” group.

The groundbreaking study is a joint project between UCL, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, NatCen Social Research and the University of Manchester.

The Independant – 26th October, 2012




75% over 75 lonely and isolated

Aug 31 2012

According to the WRVS, 75% of men over 75 feel lonely and isolated. While the UK and other European countries implement austerity measures brought about by the previous financial and economic crisis of 2008, they are also faced with the challenge of an increasingly ageing population and its repercussions.

Ageing Across Europe, a report published by the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) in May 2012 reveals concerning trends amongst men over the age of 75, who are less likely to seek help for isolation and loneliness than women for a number of reasons, perhaps because men feel that they are indomitable and can therefore cope without seeking help.

The fact that this report was published by the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service speaks volumes, as does the fact that BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour also felt compelled to deliver a programme on the subject on 16 August 2012 featuring an interview with Matthew Sowemimo, Head of Policy for the WRVS and the story of one man’s experience following the death of his wife.

Whilst the findings highlight the extent to which these men are socially isolated and lonely, 85% of those surveyed said they feel better after seeing friends or family – that’s over 160,000 men. This is where an organisation such as Men Beyond 50 can really look to fill the gap and fulfil the need for altruistic services like this for men.

Here is a snapshot of the report’s findings from 190,000 British men over the age of 75 who live alone:

• 75% have never sought help for feelings of loneliness or isolation, despite 54% admitting to suffering from feelings of depression
• 62% feel lonely because either their partner has passed away or they have lost companions their own age (54%)
• 41% typically have two or fewer face to face conversations per day and 3% per cent have none
• 36% spend more than 12 hours per day without contact with anybody
• 36% cited a loss of confidence
• 26% have given up on their hobbies
• 21% do not leave the house for days at a time
• One in eight worry about their mental health because they have no-one to talk to

Experts agree universally that loneliness is a serious health issue, not least because older people who feel lonely and isolated are far more likely to develop illnesses and require hospital care. In this time of crisis for both the economy in the UK and the NHS, now more than ever is the time to encourage a national debate about how we can all help to make the UK a better place in which to age. It’s time to look at the policies and services of our European neighbours to see which are the most effective in providing older people with a decent quality of life in these challenging times.

As David McCullough, Chief Executive of the WRVS recently commented, “it is good to see that the Government and local authorities have made a commitment in the social care white paper for loneliness to be mapped in each area. This research shows how crucial it is for Health and Wellbeing boards to deliver on the targets for loneliness they have been set. Action is urgently needed on the ground now to make sure older people experiencing loneliness get the help they need.”

Would you like to join the WRVS Befriending Service? They are currently seeking male and female volunteers – given that their research demonstrates 85 per cent of men who are lonely say they have felt better after seeing friends or family, you could really make a difference to somebody’s life. Click here for further information.