For a city which plays host to 8.788 million residents, London has the unfortunate reputation of being a lonely city to live in. So whilst we might pass hundreds of fellow city dwellers every day, the vast majority of us claim to have suffered loneliness on a day-to-day basis.
Once seen as an unfortunate problem for older generations, the issue is spreading amongst us all, (so whilst) the over 75’s are still the most likely to feel lonely, the young aren’t far behind, with 60% of 18-34 years telling the Mental Health Foundation they feel lonely often or sometimes.
Luckily, whilst younger generations are joining the ranks of the lonely, they’re also most likely to want to combat the epidemic, with 76% of those aged 16-24 saying they want to help, 9% above the national average.
Accompanying this desire for change, there has been a recent crop of companies and organisations attempting to tackle the problem, not just on an adhoc basis, but through the way we live our everyday lives.
With heartwarming videos of ‘odd couples’, made up of students and elderly residents, swarming social media last year, the UK Homesharing scheme has seen a boom of late, now boasting more that 20 home share providers upon our shores. Stressing a minimum 10-hour commitment, maximum of 2 nights away a month and 4 evenings of companionship a week, the scheme matches older homeowners with budget savvy home sharers willing to lend a hand and an ear. However, despite a recent £2 million grant from the UK Lloyds Bank Foundation and the Big Lottery Fund, the scheme which was originally set up to support older people who wished to remain independent, is still having a few growing pains for young home sharers.
Still paying rent, although significantly lower than their traditional lodger counterparts, a small amount of home sharers have expressed disdain at essentially becoming live-in carers for housemates they thought they were simply befriending. Nicola Slawson, who wrote a piece on the matter for the Guardian, said that after her elderly landlord fell ill, her own grades slipped, as pressure mounted to become a nursemaid. Reflecting on the situation, Slawson wrote, “[it] left me concerned about how many other older people there are relying on young people who are unpaid and untrained, in order to get cheap care in the home”, raising vital concerns about quality of care.
A Dutch Nursing Home is choosing to bypass these problems by providing free rent to University students, allowing them to live amongst the older generation and their primary caregivers. In return, the students offer 30 hours of their time a month, teaching residents new skills that include everything from emailing, skyping and even graffiti art.
These schemes don’t just tackle the housing crisis but also offer health and monetary benefits. With research comparing loneliness to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, in terms of health implications, recent figures show that every £1 invested in tackling loneliness can save £3 in future health costs.
Co-Living company, The Collective don’t think that companionship should come with obligation, instead making life easier for their residents. Within the world’s largest co-living building, The Old Oak, The Collective organize your whole life, allowing you to pay for everything in one fell swoop, from gym, to cinema, to rent, plus a cleaner comes every 2 weeks, even changing your sheets. Although their hobbit-sized rooms from £200 a week, may at first seem like a negative, it is their miniature size that ensures the building maintains its community spirit, luring you to the many communal areas. Stating that you can “live alongside other like-minded young professionals looking to connect, collaborate and socialize”, this way of living may be a relatively new concept, however the top dogs at The Collective say they were inspired by an old way of living, when community was at our core.
Within this statement, The Collective hit on a vital point, that whilst we may feel we are becoming more connected, through the use of Social Media sites, in reality, as a society, we are lonelier than ever. And whilst there’s no ‘one cure fits all’ solution, admitting there’s a problem is the first step towards fixing it.