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Over half of lonely adults in Norfolk and Suffolk fear something will happen to them and no one will notice

L-R: Pat Fisher and John Raven

Over half of adults (52%) who feel lonely in Norfolk and Suffolk fear something will happen to them and no one will notice. That’s according to new research released by the British Red Cross.

The Red Cross polled over 4,000 UK adults and found that about half (48%) of people in the two counties feel always, often or sometimes lonely.

The findings of the research suggest a lack of meaningful social connections could be contributing to people’s feelings of loneliness and isolation as in Norfolk and Suffolk:

  • Three in ten (30%) people say they often feel alone, like they have no one to turn to 
  • Over two fifths (45%) people say their neighbours are like strangers to them
  • Over two fifths (41%) of those who do have people they feel close to or can rely on say those people live far away from them

Of those who were lonely:

  • 67% said their loneliness is having a negative impact on their life, and 70% worry their loneliness will get worse
  • 40% of people said they have no strategies for coping with their loneliness

Last year the British Red Cross supported over 291,600 people in crisis across the UK giving them someone they could turn to in their hour of need. In Norfolk and Suffolk, the charity urgently needs more volunteers who can spare some time to visit people coping with loneliness and other issues in their homes.

John Raven, now 83, lives in Woodbridge. He had a colourful career as a ballet dancer and teacher: he performed on stage and screen during the 60s, 70s and 80s, and taught Bonnie Langford among other dancers.

But John’s wife, Peggy, died three years ago, and despite the support of carers and kindly neighbours, John still feels lonely. His old friends visit once a year, but live too far away for more regular meetings.

“Loneliness is the worst thing for me,” John says. “Especially when I go to bed at night and I miss having Peggy beside me. Things like her perfume – I didn’t think about it when she was alive, but I miss it now.”

Recently John spent three weeks in Ipswich Hospital and Bluebirds Lodge care home after suffering a neck injury. “I was very keen to get back home,” he says, “but I didn’t realise how much more lonely I would be after having people around me all the time at the hospital.”

Fortunately, John was referred to the British Red Cross Support at Home service, and support worker Pat Fisher went to visit him at home.

“I don’t think Pat realises how much he’s helped me,” John says. “He makes long visits so he has time to chat, as well as helping me find things I’ve lost, or sorting out my alarm. We get on very well together and we’ve had some laughs. I look forward to seeing him.”

“He’s a lovely fella,” says Pat Fisher, 49, who has been with the Red Cross for six years. “I’ve done a few practical things for John, but what he really needed was companionship. It’s very rewarding to be able to do that for him. It’s clear he’s pleased to see me when I visit.”

Volunteers with Pat’s scheme make home visits to people for up to six weeks, to help them through times of extra need, and can help arrange longer-term support where it’s needed.

“I don’t think the loneliness will ever go away completely,” says John, “But Pat has helped me to live with it.”

The British Red Cross is there every day for those who are alone and isolated, helping them connect with their communities. As well as providing dedicated support and companionship to vulnerable people at home; lending a wheelchair so people are able to get around following a health crisis; supporting refugees to become valued members of their community; reuniting families that have been displaced; or inviting people to join us in building kinder, more connected communities across the UK – the Red Cross is there.

The British Red Cross also co-chairs the Loneliness Action Group in partnership with the Co-op – a coalition of charities, business, public sector leaders and government who together are working to tackle loneliness in our communities and continue the work of the Jo Cox Commission.

Mark Bradley, Independent Living Service Manager at the British Red Cross in East Anglia, said: “What we know from supporting vulnerable people is that loneliness and social isolation don’t discriminate.  Life circumstances can change in the blink of an eye, meaning it can happen to anyone, no matter your age or background.

“We all need someone to turn to in a crisis, but the findings of our research suggest that there are many people in our communities feeling they lack meaningful, human connections.  This will be concerning for all of us to hear, no matter where we live in the UK, or with whom.

“Our volunteers can start to alleviate that loneliness, helping people to rediscover social links, or help them find longer-term support if they need it.

“We urgently need more volunteers to help us support more vulnerable people this winter. If you’re a compassionate, practical person with a bit of time to spare and would like to make a real difference to people in your local community, we would love to hear from you.”

To find out more, please contact 01473 219 260.

Text KINDNESS to 70141 and donate £5 to help make sure support is there for those who need it most.

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