#SocialWarming

Global warming…it’s one of the biggest challenges of our time and one I feel is somewhat glossed over with how we live our lives.  I was at a conference recently and I heard the most astonishing fact… We only have around 60 harvests left.  That means global warming (as well as other factors) has had such an impact on our top soil, that will in my lifetime mean we aren’t able to harvest crops?!  How did that even happen?  The facts are there and have always been readily available…yet we carry on with our busy lives at such a pace that we don’t realise the impact of our action or non-action until its virtually too late… I for one would like to stop this behaviour.  Sure, life is busy and challenging, but I want to focus on improving the things that really matter.  Things like global warming.  Or even social warming?!  Social warming is the phrase I use to describe our indifference around ignoring social challenges such as loneliness and isolation.  Global warming maybe the biggest environmental challenge of our time, but I believe social warming is one pf the biggest social challenges; and one which is on the increase.

We are all going to age and we are living longer.  Did you know that for those born in 2013 onwards, a third of these will live past 100!!!  There are currently roughly 12 million people in the UK aged 65+ and by 2040, a quarter of our population will be aged 65+.  A third of our older population live alone, this in spite of a quarter of them needing help with at least one activity of daily living such as washing or shopping etc.  This number as we age, is only going to increase…

Loneliness and isolation – although we commonly think of this for our older people, it’s also an issue for our younger people.  In an age where we can connect through the internet at any given second, we still have 10% of people aged 16 – 24 who felt they were always or often lonely – the highest proportion for any age group. Teens can have thousands of friends online and yet feel unsupported and isolated – could technology really be exacerbating social isolation?  We now walk around with our head in our phones, we don’t have time to look up and smile at other people, or to notice things around us.  For some people, chatting at a supermarket checkout had been the social highlight of their week – now even that is changing through automation.  Overall in the UK, 1 in 20 people always or often feel lonely… showing me that there is an increasing issue with people having a regular amount of meaningful contact with others.  The harm loneliness can cause, both physically and mentally, can be devastating to people of all ages.  I recently heard that it can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.  If this is so – then where are the hard hitting adverts pushing us to stop social warming?  Can you remember the smoking adverts which compelled people to change their behaviours…where are these for social warming – and why isn’t there a bigger push on ending this challenge?

It’s not all doom and gloom though, there is some great work being done through the ‘Campaign to end loneliness’ and Silver line – also through community groups and charities.  Even some housing associations are doing some really great innovative work such as piloting smart homes.  I however can’t help feeling that we could do so much more through harnessing the special parts of technology and also ourselves as people – so here is my challenge to you…

Firstly, be honest with yourself…have you ever felt lonely or isolated?  How did this make you feel?  I have, and I guess this is why I feel compelled to raise the profile of this issue, because I understand if only briefly the impact of not feeling part of something bigger than myself or my own thoughts.  I believe the only way you can make real social change is by talking openly and honestly about a subject, educating people and inspiring people to make a difference if only small.  For the next week, put your phone in your pocket as you walk around (and leave it there)  instead try engaging with someone with a smile or saying hello.  For 55% of older people who live alone – sometimes their TV is what they rely on for company.  Why don’t you be the one to brighten someone’s day by taking an interest in them and making them feel part of something.  Why not make an effort to chat to the neighbour you see doesn’t have many visitors or even leave a card through their door with your name and details and an offer of a roast dinner on a Sunday.  It’s not rocket science we need, its kindness.  If any of these facts made you want to make a difference, why not take to Twitter or LinkedIn and tell me what you did to make a difference using the hashtag  #socialwarming

I can’t wait to hear from you…go on… make a difference to someone’s life today (and tell me about it)

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