John Knight’s column: Pledging to end loneliness in Ashfield

Ashfield District Council, Urban Road, Sutton in Ashfield.
Ashfield District Council, Urban Road, Sutton in Ashfield.

SOME years ago I contributed to a BBC documentary on an obscure Victorian Artist, long since forgotten in this country.

It took less than a day to film and I received the princely sum of £55 pounds for my efforts. As I knew it was going to be dubbed into Spanish and never seen in Britain I then promptly forgot all about it. Six months later however a solitary e-mail popped up in my in tray from a lady in Costa Rica asking questions about the Artist. Next day one came in from Venezuela. Within a week I had received nearly 500 e-mails from all parts of Latin America.

Intrigued I phoned the BBC to see how many people had seen the programme, and was astonished to be told over 15 million.

However what struck me most about this, was how easy it is these days to actually make contact with someone.

Email, Facebook, twitter, and other social network sites have made it simpler than ever to communicate with people, even strangers from half way round the globe.

In theory this should have been an excellent advance.

Yet only last year I read a disturbing story of an 80 year-old man who had died in his home in Glasgow and had been left in his house for nearly a month before his body was discovered.

He had neighbours either side and lived in a tenement block, but no one had thought to ask where he was.

This struck me as sad and depressing. For the elderly Twitter, Facebook and e-mail are not natural forms of communication, and it is important that these new tools do not destroy our old fashioned sense of neighbourliness and community.

This is why I have pledged Ashfield District Council to the “Campaign to end loneliness”, an excellent crusade aimed at ending isolation in our seniors.

Tackling loneliness can produce a stronger sense of community in which the elderly are more valued and play a stronger role.

Current research shows that more than 10 per cent of our pensioners now feel very isolated and lonely.

This should be reason enough to support the campaign, but studies also shows that loneliness is known to speed up the onset of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, an illness that costs the NHS over £20 billion a year.

So the next time you’re thinking of tweeting what you had for breakfast make time instead to drop in on one of your elderly neighbours and actually talk.

It might make you both feel better!