As the days get shorter and we move into the cold, dark seasons, thoughts of loneliness aren’t far away. But sometimes we can forget that loneliness isn’t a seasonal occurrence and, unless we’re experiencing it ourselves, is there any reason for us to deal with issues of isolation in our community?
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation say yes, and are continuing their research into loneliness in the community, an investigation which has been going on since 2010 and involves two York communities, one with strong social ties, and one with less ‘social capital’. The Neighbourhood Approaches to Loneliness investigation aims to explore how people experiencing loneliness can change their situation.
Research has suggested that our surroundings have a great deal of impact on whether we feel involved or cut-off. These situational factors can include the absence of local public spaces which everyone can enjoy, the need for more organised groups and activities to take part in, and a lack of interaction between different generations. Are there areas of York which are lacking this ‘social capital’ and what are the best steps those communities can take to invest in the social deficit that they face?
Since the investigation began in December 2010, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have been collating their findings and have acknowledged that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with isolation within communities, but continue to discuss possible solutions which will not only be beneficial to individuals, but community-wide too.
Researchers are looking into how initiatives of community cafes and swapshops, car-shares, and inter-generational activities will advantage our small city’s population. The proposed activities will build on those already available in all areas, and we know that there are a lot of events happening in our small city. So why are there still members of our community who feel alone?
Previous research has suggested that feelings of isolation peak during times of stress and great change, such as bereavement, losing a job or the breakdown of a relationship. These are factors which can also greatly affect an individual’s self-esteem, so questions could be raised as to whether people experiencing loneliness because of these factors are likely to want to get involved with community events that may take some self-confidence to attend at first. Perhaps there is more than one kind of loneliness; that of communities as a whole, not mixing with each other to increase that social capital, and the loneliness of the individual, for which every answer is tailored to each separate person. How would you suggest we work as communities to fix either?
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation are asking the same and looking into what extent neighbourhoods can impact on an individual’s experience of loneliness, as well as looking into any roles that may be filled by social enterprises, and hoping to structure volunteering in more of a ‘community activism’ way, harnessing more potential than professional voluntary organisations.
To keep up to date with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and their Neighbourhood Approaches to Loneliness Scheme, visit here.