Over the weekend, I turned to the trusty i-Player to watch Sue Bourne's fascinating documentary The Age of Loneliness. I heard an interview with Ms Bourne on Bernie Keith's show on BBC Northampton, else it's not really the sort of programme I would watch. I'm glad I tuned in.
I'm generally quite happy with my own company, but there is a world of difference between solitude (a good thing) and loneliness (most definitely not a good thing). There have been times when I've felt a touch isolated, such as when I first left home all those years ago, when I've started a new job or been somewhere everyone knows someone except me; but they have been fleeting and manageable, and I'm blessed in that I've never been properly lonely. However, if this programme is to be believed, it's only a matter of time.
It seems to me that one thing we can do to help ourselves is to be involved with as many different groups as possible. Some of the saddest stories in the programme were of those long-married couples where one spouse has died and the remaining partner has looked up to find she or he has no friends. Devotion is wonderful, but only doing things as a couple is always going to end badly. The same is true where a partnership breaks down and one person moves on. If friends have only ever been joint friends of the couple, rather than the individuals, it's bound to be tricky when the dynamic changes.
Obviously I'm no expert, but may I urge you all to embrace contacts and friendships wherever you find them? Spread your wings. I'm not saying everyone you meet will become a bosom buddy, but living a closed-off existence is storing up trouble. (That said, I appreciate that crippling shyness and mental illness bring their own issues, also touched on by Sue Bourne.)
The other point that came across is that busy people can still be lonely. So if you know someone who lives alone, even if they seem to be quite content, it can't hurt to ask them in for a cup of tea once in a while.