Many people wont admit that they are lonely. In the UK, many singletons return to their cold rooms, bedsits and homes having no one to talk to or share the niceties of their day. Immigrants or those without a social community suffer more from loneliness.
Lets face it, there are times when loneliness creeps in when you are in a crowd, in a marriage, in a situation you find hard to talk about……. In many cases, people have their radio, computers and television sets to keep them company.
Loneliness is an issue. I think dealing with long term loneliness starts with admitting that you are lonely. For some, loneliness is short term, for others, its become a life style. We tend to mind our business in the West dont we? We ignore our neighbors, we look away when a greeting from us could make a difference.. sounds familiar? We have mastered the art of coldness perpetuating the vicious cycle that breeds loneliness.
I am no stranger to loneliness. I have written this as a veteran, but I am no expert. Have you ever been lonely? Imagine you are housebound and elderly, would your cynicism change to those who are lonely? Just wondering…
Have a read.
Loneliness is an emotional state that may affect one’s mental health if left unchecked. Loneliness, needs no definition. It is the sadness that comes with having no friends or company. It can also be described as unfriendliness and isolation. Loneliness and isolation are twin modern day evils that affects the best of us in the post modern world we live in. The Tory Minister Jeremy Hunt recently wondered why the English would not learn from their Asian counterparts in their treatment of their elderly parents. A lesson perhaps too late to learn for the Brits, who perhaps have, advanced social systems which make it convenient for them to put their elderly parents in nursing homes or hospices. This is not wrong, it is only a different model.
The Asians have closer family networks and are bound together by religion and culture. They won’t readily send their elderly parents to a care home. This is a general assertion and a difference between how different cultures look after their elderly.
Some people do become carers of their elderly parents but they are often forgotten by the government who pays them a pittance for their labor.
Loneliness can afflict anybody, anywhere and at any time. People can experience loneliness for different reasons. Marriage is not an antidote to loneliness by the way. Many people are married or in relationships and yet they still feel lonely and isolated. Loneliness is not peculiar to any one region or culture either. Everybody at some point in their lives would experience what it means to be lonely. More so in Nigeria where is no such thing as organised elderly care. There are no known national charities, hospices, care homes as well who look after the terminally ill, elderly and other vulnerable groups. So loneliness must be stylishly entrenched in Nig
eria. Perhaps, no one has noticed it yet. But loneliness lurks in every community.
In UK, the statistics is that one in ten will experience loneliness at some point in their lives. This loneliness plagues the youths too.
Many singletons experience loneliness acutely. More so, after the breakup of a long term relationship. The smart ones, engage in extracurricular activities after work or indulge in online dating websites. But, at the end of the day, they would return to a cold, empty house and a cold bed. For some in this demographic, television and internet become their best friends and in many cases, their only links to the outside world. In Nigeria, the elderly have their transistor radio (powered by batteries) to keep them company.
According to the BBC website, there were 7.1 million single person households in England and Wales in 2011. According to the Office for National Statistics, that’s up from 6.5 million over the previous decade, although the proportion of all homes housing for just one person remained at 30%. EU figures suggest that, in the UK as a whole, 13% of the population lives alone. Denmark has the highest proportion of single-dwellers, at 24%. In Germany, Finland and Sweden, that number is just below 20%.
The figures suggest that in southern Europe people are less inclined to live alone. In Greece, Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria and Romania, that amounts to fewer than 10% of people, with Malta having the lowest rate at about 7%.
In Nigeria, many people in their fifties or sixties find that their mansions are too big for them to inhabit as their children no longer live at home. More often than not, it is the widows and widowers who experience loneliness most. For the some pensioners, house helps become a part of their family and the only support system they have in their later years. Loosing financial support which comes from marriage, many widows are left forgotten by the inlaws. As money is the national language in Nigeria, these are subsequently forgotten people in the wider community.
Why are some people lonely? Here are some reasons: bereavement, a relationship break up, single parents who find it hard to maintain a social life, retirement, old age people find it hard to go out alone, they might have moved to a new area without family, friends or community networks, they may belong to a minority ethnic group and they may live in an area with people from a different background, they may feel excluded because they have mobility problems or a lack of money. The reasons are not exhaustive. In Nigeria, that may include the sudden loss of life and property from the Boko Haram crises, chronic homelessness, long term unemployment, hunger and disease.
We must distinguish loneliness from being alone. Some people actually enjoy being alone. They enjoy coming home to a cold, empty home, they enjoy taking themselves out for pub dinner, they enjoy drinking or smoking alone. An extreme form of selfishness, these people enjoy the pleasure of their own company and generally find other people a nuisance.
Loneliness is weird because you can still be in a crowd and still be lonely. Loneliness is not the same as being alone.
The BBC recently commissioned a poll as part of Faith in The World Week. The poll showed that almost half of all adults in England say they experience feelings of loneliness. The survey showed that 48% of adults feel varying degrees of loneliness. It also showed that people who practise a religion feel lonelier than those who do not. London is said to be the loneliest place in England with a figure of 52% compared to 45% in the South West of England. According to the poll, 18 to 24 year olds experience it just as much as those who are in their 60s and older. If you are in your 30s, 40s or 50s, you are less likely to be lonely, probably because you have got a houseful of children or teenagers and are busy working. One in five people say they are more lonely now than they were in ten years. People who live alone suffer from loneliness more frequently than people who share their homes with others. The highest number of people who live alone are those aged 65 and above.
Nigerians probably deal with loneliness by going to their churches, mosques and their faith groups. This is probably why our churches thrive as people look to the church for the support they need. Yet
, our society traditionally forgets the typically loners. The widows and widowers, the elderly, children with learning disabilities, visual and auditory impaired people and so on. In the United Kingdom, loneliness is targeted by charities such as Help the Aged. This charity, like others, encourages members of the public to devote some of their time to nursing a friendship with someone in their later years. Such a friendship in Nigeria might seem rather peculiar for security reasons.
To deal with loneliness in Nigeria, we must start by researching how serious it is as a problem. Seriously? But when we consider corruption, unemployment, lack of affordable healthcare, good roads, epileptic electricity and the many other problems which beset us, loneliness becomes too trivial to merit any attention.
Notwithstanding, faith groups can play an important role in mobilizing funds into assisting indigent widows and the housebound elderly. If local governments are still existing and relevant, they have a role to play here too. Above all, children of elderly parents in villages across the country must remember that it is their duty to look after their own parents. This, they must do robustly. For singles who are lonely, the word on the street is, the time will pass if you are actively busy doing something for the common good.