Five leading Christian Charities have come together to encourage churches to play a major role in the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness and its focus on older people between 21st March and 23rd April 2017.
Under the slogan âStart a Conversationâ, they would like to mobilise Christians to help themselves and others around them â to become part of the solution â whether through talking to a neighbour, visiting an old friend, or just making time for people they meet.
There are approximately 3.8 million older people living alone in the UK at the current time, and over 700,000 people over the age of 65 report that they are lonely. National organisation â The Campaign to End Loneliness â emphasises that âas our population ages, the risk of social isolation for people aged 65 and over is increasingly becoming a major public health issue. There will be two million more single person households by 2019, and social trust in the UK is now among the lowest in Europeâ.
There is increasing national and international evidence of the negative impact that loneliness and isolation can have on quality of life. Recent reports highlight the effects of loneliness on biological, physical, and mental health and one found that there was a 50% increased likelihood of survival for those with strong social connections. The same study found that having weak social connections carried a health risk equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic. Loneliness is also considered more harmful than not exercising and twice as harmful as obesity.
Already Churches in the UK are doing more to address loneliness and isolation than any other social issue with 87% of churches having organised or informal activities in place. However, more can be done to address this important issue, and by participating in this national campaign, churches can continue to play a crucial role.
The âStart a Conversationâ campaign suggests seven steps for action that churches and individual Christians can take and updates will be provided using the twitter handle #Faithtogether and #HappyToChat over the coming weeks:
- Download top tips for starting a conversation
- Explore starting a visiting and befriending scheme
- Get training and encouragement through the âFaith in Seniorsâ conference
- See how the Anna Chaplain model could support your work
- Download a report on church responses to isolation
- In London: Join a learning conversation (http://www.capitalmass.org.uk/themes/isolation )
- Sign up to the Jo Cox Campaign and pledge to start a conversation
Representatives from each organisation have commented on this opportunity as follows:
 Church in Action Report, Church Urban Fund October 2016.