“I come back in the evening to an empty house, I feel as though I have absolutely nobody… it’s this really depressing loneliness that gets me.”
The words of 74-year-old Joanne, whose voice shakes as she explains how she felt lonely for the first time at the age of 70, when her husband died.
“I thought I was a strong person, that I could have coped,” she said.
Hers is just one of a dozen stories that The Yorkshire Post has collected for a new audio archive, launched on our website today, with the real voices of people who are lonely or living in isolation.
The powerful collection does what statistics and policies can not, puts into stark realisation the feelings of despair, loss and frustration of those suffering loneliness in our communities.
We hear from 87-year-old Ernest, who says he “no longer has the incentive” to go out, after losing his wife, and Joy, who felt trapped in her home after being diagnosed with a mobility problem.
Maud, who lived with her best friend for more than 60 years, speaks of how she “got into a rut” after she died. “I didn’t care about going out,” she said. “I had no family.”
The Yorkshire Post’s journalists Lindsay Pantry and David Clay worked with charities such as Independent Age, Contact the Elderly, The Silver Line, Age UK Sheffield and Leeds Community Foundation to speak to people about their own experiences of being lonely. You, our readers, also got in touch to tell us your experiences directly.
Bob Lowe, 93, was one of those who told his story.
Mr Lowe, of Hampshire, became an ambassador for older people’s helpline The Silver Line after it helped him following the death of his wife from Alzheimer’s. In The Yorkshire Post’s recording, Mr Lowe speaks of the “terrible aching feeling” he felt and how loneliness was like a “mass of grey” around him.
In supporting the campaign, Mr Lowe said it was important to raise the issue on behalf of those affected by loneliness.
He said: “Lonely people do not wish to be a burden on the rest of society, and therefore it’s necessary to spread the word, either by phone or publicity, articles in papers, just to get at the elderly people and say, you don’t have to be totally alone.”
Nicola Furbisher, managing editor of The Yorkshire Post, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Joanne, Ernest, Joy, Maud and the others who have spoken so frankly and with such honesty about their experiences of loneliness. We have amassed an archive which shows that loneliness can not only affect any one of us, at any time, but can also be alleviated with the right help and support.
“This is just the start. We would encourage any of our readers who would like to share their stories to get in touch, as the more we can shine a light on loneliness, the more it will come out of the shadows and put a stop to this hidden epidemic.”
Laura Alcock-Ferguson, director of charity the Campaign to End Loneliness, partners in the Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign, said: “At the heart of the issue of loneliness lies the growing number of older people whose lives are defined and shattered by loneliness. That is why projects such as The Yorkshire Post’s audio archive are so important.
“They bring people’s experiences and own stories to life and make the issue impossible to ignore. Policy makers must listen to the stories The Yorkshire Post has gathered and recognise the devastating impact loneliness can have on our mental and physical health.”
• We are hoping to add to the archive over the coming weeks and months. If you would like to share your story, please either email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01132 388422. All calls will be treated in confidence.