Combatting loneliness one chat at a time #LetsTalkLoneliness

17th June, 2020
Dad and son
Dad and son meeting together

This week's National Loneliness Awareness Week (15th-21st of June). It's purpose is to raise awareness of loneliness and encouraging people to recognise and talk openly about their emotions, especially during the unpredictability caused by Covid-19.

Loneliness Awareness Week (LAW), started 4 years ago now and has gradually been gaining more attention and prominence. Last year it was recorded that over 800 events took place during the first launch day, resulting in conversations about loneliness every 5 seconds across the UK – truly amazing! 


So, what is loneliness?

Loneliness is a perceived mismatch between the quality or quantity of social connections that a person has and what they would like to have  –  it’s a perfectly normal human emotion and can be a signal that we need more social contact at times. Over 9 million people in the UK say that they are often lonely with the majority being 16-24 year-olds.

With this in mind and the fact that current circumstances mean there are more of us than ever who are likely to be suffering from loneliness right now, we’ve been looking at how Connexus is supporting both colleagues and customers with this.

Grandparent and child learning on a digital tablet

Combatting loneliness, top tips

One way we can help to combat loneliness is by talking about it! Everyone needs different levels of social contact but here are some of our tips for helping yourself and the community:

  • Lots of us met our neighbours (some for the first time) during #clapforcarers – you could keep this contact up and extend it to having a socially distanced chat and cuppa in the front garden
  • Starting an online group such as WhatsApp or Facebook for you and your neighbours is a great way to connect your street and feel more involved with what’s going on
  • Buying local can make a huge difference to your community and the longevity of local shops and jobs – plus you’ll get to know those around you
  • Don’t forget those neighbours that may be vulnerable or unable to get out and about, popping a note through the door with your contact details on could help them feel less lonely
  • Take up a new hobby - unless it's something really random. The chances are, there's other people around here into the same thing! And even if you pick a random one, there's certainly people online with the same hobby.
  • How about sharing this article on social media or you could share your own experiences and some tips to help others. Using the hashtags #LetsTalkLoneliness and #LonelinessAwarenessWeek will help others find your posts.
Wellbeing is a really important focus for us and we’ve been looking at how we can support and promote communication and conversations, so people don’t feel so alone. Working from home can be really isolating, especially if you live on your own. One thing we’re really encouraging is taking time out of your day to share a cup of tea or just have a catch up. So, we’re promoting ‘Kitchen Catch-up’s’ – virtual of course!
Victoria Tomlinson, Director of Development and Assets

Loneliness awareness at Connexus

On-top of initiatives like virtual catch-ups, colleagues have been posting pictures of their workstations, their furry friends (keeping them company), their baking successes (or not!) and their wellbeing walks. Everything we can do to lift the mood.

Stroud Team on Zoom
Bread winning
Dog working from home
Lazy cat
Rainbow Cake

Just as we want to support our colleagues, we’re committed to supporting our customers too. At the beginning of lockdown we launched our Customer Engagement program, calling all of our 10,000 customers across Shropshire and Herefordshire with the aim to let customers know that our housing and support services were operating as close to usual as possible. Not only did these vital calls help us understand which of our customers needed the most support but we were able to establish those in need of ongoing contact to ensure they didn’t feel lonely during this period of uncertain and isolation.

I was surprised when I received a phone call from you guys the other day, checking if all is OK here. Living alone with a disability and the lockdown was making me realise how isolated I was but the phone call was lovely – thanks!
A Connexus Customer

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the residents at our Independent Living Schemes (sheltered housing) would thrive on everyday contact with our support staff, including using the communal areas for all kinds of social clubs and support groups. During lockdown and with social distancing measures in place the support we offer has had to be adapted to accommodate these but certainly has not been compromised.

Our Independent Living Coordinators soon implemented new ways of working and have been creative with how they keep their residents supported and not feeling lonely. 1,873 calls were made over 5 days to all the residents to ‘check in’ on how they were feeling and helped us address specific support needs for extra follow up calls. Now the coordinators’ use a mixture of telephone and video chats to help maintain the social atmosphere the residents were so used to previously.

We don't want 'the new normal' to mean our residents feeling isolated or lonely. It will be hard to replace the peppy atmosphere at our regular Lunch Club and Knit and Natter groups, but using video calling might just help to keep everybody's spirits up and minds active.
Michelle Hodnett, Independent Living Coordinator, Ley Gardens