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West Ham Archdeacon Elwin Cockett urges all to help beat the epidemic of loneliness especially during the festive period

PUBLISHED: 10:42 07 December 2016 | UPDATED: 10:42 07 December 2016

Archant

You might not have noticed, but there’s an epidemic sweeping this country at the moment with devastating results. It is shortening life-expectancy and destroying people’s quality of life. Doctors diagnose it all the time, and we should all be looking out for it: It’s called loneliness.

You would think that in a place like east London, where just about everyone lives within a stone’s throw of other people, there would be no loneliness. But the fact is one-in-three older people suffer from loneliness, and half of all older people in the UK consider their TV to be their main form of company.

Being lonely is bad for a person’s health. It is associated with high blood pressure, depression and an increased risk of Alzheimers, and doctors say it is as big a risk to health as smoking and obesity. But it also matters because if we want the world to be a better place – and most of us do – loneliness is one of the biggest challenges in our community.

I love that scene in the film Evan Almighty, where Morgan Freeman talks to Evan about Evan’s big plans to change the world. “You want to know how to change the world, son?”, he asks. “One Act of Random Kindness at a time.”

The good news is that there are plenty of acts of random kindness that can combat loneliness and help us connect with neighbours. They range from offering to take out their bins, or to pick up their prescriptions to calling in for a coffee or checking their smoke alarms. It’s not hard, and it doesn’t have to be one-way, either. Older neighbours can help by doing things like taking in a parcel or holding a spare key. They’re often brilliant at sharing local knowledge, too.

God gave most of us the ability to communicate, even if it just starts with a friendly “hello!”. This Christmas, with all that’s going on, let’s see if we can start a movement for Acts of Random Kindness. You never know: We might just change the world. More from Elwin


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