'It's a strange empty feeling'
Loneliness affects millions in the UK. Florence and Roy explain how Age UK has helped support them.
Loneliness can be a difficult thing to experience – but there is support out there. Loneliness isn’t the same as being alone, as some of us are more content with our own company than others. But it’s a feeling that can creep up on us, particularly after a life-changing event such as a period of illness, for instance, or a bereavement.
Age UK is determined to tackle loneliness head on, working hard to befriend people in lonely situations, and persuading people to contact us to see how we can support them.
We spoke to Florence and Roy to find out how loneliness has affected them, and how Age UK has supported them.
Florence met her husband Albie when she was 15, and was married to him for 60 blissful years. When they went to hospital for Albie to have a small operation, they weren’t prepared for the devastating news. ‘The doctor came in and said, “I can’t do anything for you, your lungs are full of asbestos.”’ Florence pauses. ‘We walked out of that hospital like a pair of zombies. It knocked us for six.’
Going to the Age UK group gives you more confidence and a lighter heart.
Albie’s last few months were over all too swiftly, and Florence found herself suddenly, awfully alone. ‘It was very strange after Albie passed. I went on a couple of holidays on my own and thoroughly enjoyed them. I was enjoying everything. But that was two and a half years ago, and now it’s hitting me. The loneliness is suddenly there. It’s a strange empty feeling.’
Florence was experiencing a delayed reaction to her change in circumstance, which is very common. Thankfully, she reached out to Age UK.
‘It was lovely contacting Age UK. I went to a bereavement group. I like to hear how other people feel, if they feel the silly things I do, and I was amazed how much I enjoyed it,’ Florence explains. ‘Going to the Age UK group gives you more confidence and a lighter heart. The support from Age UK is enormous. If you feel a bit low or miserable, you can pop in and have a cup of tea and there’s always someone there to talk to.’
Roy also found himself feeling very alone after his wife, Phyllis died unexpectedly. Six years ago, Roy persuaded Phyllis to go to the doctor about a persistent cough. She was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. ‘We were walking to the bus stop, and she said I’ve got to stop, I’m getting out of breath, and that was it. She went into a nursing home and that’s where she died. Her heart just gave out in the end.’
Roy’s world came crashing down on him. He and Phyllis hadn’t had children and, as Roy explains, ‘Nearly all my mates have gone, too.’
Eventually Roy was pragmatic about his situation. ‘Fortunately I got in touch with Age UK and it was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. The first person I got in touch with was a lady called Ruth and I’ve been speaking to her ever since. She’s been like a daughter to me.’ Age UK offered Roy a real lifeline. ‘It was like coming across an oasis. Loneliness is one of the hardest things that you will encounter in life. Ever since I rang Age UK I’ve righted the ship. It just makes me feel good. I couldn’t have done it without Ruth.’
I got in touch with Age UK and it was the best thing I've ever done in my life.
Call in Time
Sometimes a friendly chat on the phone can make all the difference. Call in Time is for people over 60 who would benefit from the support a telephone friendship could provide. Our free weekly telephone calls can make all the difference to people who are feeling lonely. We work hard to match people with a volunteer who has similar interests and who we think they will get along with, who will then call that person once a week. Many of our members and volunteers build up fantastic friendships over the phone, just like Roy and Ruth.
If you think you, or someone you know, could benefit from the Call in Time service, or if you wish to know more about how the service works, please call Age UK on 0800 678 1174, or email firstname.lastname@example.org