After coming back from a wonderful holiday with some very beautiful friends and it made me think about the real importance of friendship in my life and what this means to me and to my wellbeing. it also made me think about how important friendship and social networks are as we get older and the huge benefit this can bring in terms of support, care, socialising and a feeling of belonging (something I think is a fundamental desire in all of us). It also made me think about loneliness and isolation, what it might feel like if we don’t have any friends or family, with no one to reach out to or hold on to or just spend time with. I cannot imagine it, and hopefully will never experience it, but as we get older, this is what can happen and does happen to a lot of people. People living on their own is on the increase There were 2.43 million 45 to 64-year-olds living on their own in the UK in 2017 which has been attributed to a higher proportion of middle-aged people who are divorced, single or have never married. The number of people aged 75 and over who are living alone has increased by around a quarter in the past 20 years, from 1.78 million to 2.21 million. This is likely to be because of the death of a spouse or partner and our increasing ageing population. Studies have shown that as we get older our friendships decline in number and it has been suggested that older adults actively withdraw from their network, perhaps as a result of declining physical health or loss of roles through retirement. This withdrawal and decline in health can then lead to loneliness and isolation and a separation from society. Loneliness is painful. But it can be prevented and building and cultivating our social networks and friendships is crucial.
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