Tackling loneliness in your community: what you can do to help
For some, loneliness can play a major part in a person’s life. Research suggests that it’s an increasingly important issue across the UK, with 75% of GPs saying that they are seeing between one and five people a day who suffer with loneliness.
Loneliness can affect anyone, at any age. That’s why we want everyone to be able to experience the things that can create new bonds, strengthen old ones and put the feelings associated with loneliness aside.
Getting out and about in the community, bringing friends and family together is what’s driving our own approach to taking on loneliness. We want our buses to be more than just a mode of transport, it’s something to help everyone make valuable connections, no matter if it’s meeting friends for a catch-up or a delicious family meal at that new restaurant in town.
As part of our drive to combat the loneliness prevalent in communities throughout the UK, we have partnered with U3A (University of the Third Age), a national charity open to anyone who is retired, semi-retired or no longer raising a family. There are over 1,000 U3A organisations throughout the UK, with more than 420,000 members, providing a selection of activities and groups.
Perfect for people looking to enhance their skills and knowledge, U3A groups take in a range of subjects, from art to zoology. The organisation has had an incredible impact on thousands of people – improving personal wellbeing, imparting new skills and bringing people together.
We have included many of the U3A organisations which are serviced by Arriva bus routes in our regional pages, as well as other community projects, centres and events that are all about warm welcomes, good conversation and letting people of all ages, from all walks of life strike up new friendships. From elderly support groups and museum visits to parent/toddler meet-ups and charity opportunities, we’ve tracked down a range of places you can use the bus to get to – whether you’re feeling lonely or not.
Who are the U3A?
The U3A is a country-wide movement that aims to bring together people of the ‘third age’ – those who have finished working full-time, have raised a family, and now have time to pursue personal interests and try new things. The U3A has a ‘university’ of members which arrange group meetings to continue their learning and development in an informal and friendly environment, drawing on one another’s knowledge and experience to learn new things in later life.
Promoting lifelong learning through self-help, the U3A movement began in 1981, and quickly gathered momentum across the UK. Fully self-funded, its members learn not for a qualification but for the sheer joy and pleasure of learning together in a collaborative environment, and its numbers continue to rise with – with over 400,000 members registered in more than 1,000 U3A groups across the country.
From Northern Ireland to the South East, the U3A is visible in every region across the UK, and there are lots of different subjects to choose from. The peer-learning system used by the U3A recognises that retired people have a lifetime of collective experience and knowledge, and thus different groups are co-ordinated by members who have a strong interest or knowledge of a specific topic.
Not only are U3A groups a wonderful place to learn and develop in later life; they give people who may be suffering from social isolation the opportunity to make friends and collaborate in a supportive and nurturing environment, which values knowledge-sharing and proactivity.
At Arriva, we’re proud to have partnered with the U3A, and believe our regional bus services are the perfect way to help people get more involved with the activity groups happening in their area.
Visit our regional pages below to find out more about the U3A groups in your local area.
What you can do to help and support others who are feeling lonely?
If those close to you have recently mentioned they’re feeling lonely, there are plenty of things you can do to offer a helping hand.
Reaching out and lending them an understanding ear can be a big benefit. Whether it’s a brief text, a phone call or some face-to-face interaction, letting them know they have someone to lean on and share their problems with is a reassuring tool for those in need. Arranging to meet up or talk on the phone with them regularly lets your friend or family member know there’s someone who cares for them.
Giving them the encouragement to try new things and seek out the relevant support can be a great comfort too. If they’re looking to make new social connections or access services designed to tackle loneliness, then let them know you’re in their corner and happy to help them. It’s important to be patient when people are lonely; offer gentle assurance and let them know they’re being understood when they open up.
If you know an older person who lives alone, is in poor health, or lives far from their family, then offer some practical help if they need it. Ask them if they need assistance with their shopping, picking up medicine or walking their dog. Why not volunteer for organisations that support the elderly? It could be as simple as a weekly telephone call, an extended home visit or even hosting coffee mornings where bigger groups can get to know each other.
Feeling down? Advice for coping with loneliness
If you’ve been feeling a little lonely recently then you’re in the right place. Remember that recognising loneliness is a sign that things may need to change. The good thing is that loneliness can be overcome. Some things you can do to combat feelings of loneliness include:
- Take things slowly at first. Start by going somewhere like the cinema or a sports event, where there are plenty of people around you, but you won’t be expected to talk to them.
- Busy yourself if you’re at a loose end. Volunteering is a great way to pass the time and gives you a sense of achievement, too.
- Take up a new hobby. If you’ve moved to a new area and don’t know anyone, this is a really good method of meeting new people.
- Reach out to a friend by phone or email. It might seem strange at first, but if you can think of someone supportive or who makes you smile, this can help take your mind off things.
- Do something creative, even if it’s something like a jigsaw or puzzle. Sewing and needlework can be especially soothing if your mind is busy.
What’s going on in your area - Local ways to curb loneliness
If you’re looking for local clubs and activities, we have identified some great organisations, centres, community groups and projects across the regions that we serve: