CARE OF THE LONELY SHOULD CON­CERN ALL IN OUR ‘COM­MU­NITY’

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - NEWS - PAUL MUR­RAY Watch Paul Mur­ray LIVE Sun­day-Thurs­day at 9pm

FOR­GIVE me dear reader, I usu­ally use this page to rage about pol­i­tics, but this week I’d like to think out loud about some­thing far more im­por­tant, lone­li­ness.

It was R U OK? Day on Thurs­day and sure, many mouthed the words about reach­ing out to mates and tak­ing care of each other, but how much do people ac­tu­ally do it?

A cou­ple of weeks ago Life­line re­leased a sur­vey of 3000 Aus­tralians that showed 60 per cent of people are lonely and 82.5 per cent think it’s in­creas­ing all over so­ci­ety.

I don’t know why, but surely the fact people don’t seem to care when they hear a statis­tic like that is part of the prob­lem. Maybe we are all too busy to care, but if you take out all the dis­trac­tions we pre­tend are the im­por­tant things we ‘have to do’ to­day, lone­li­ness isn’t that strange a con­cept to un­der­stand.

Per­haps so many people told Life­line the prob­lem is get­ting big­ger is be­cause it feels like so­ci­ety is aimed at the in­di­vid­ual, rarely the col­lec­tive. You may have lived in the same city, town or sub­urb for a while. But do you feel part of the ‘com­mu­nity’?

I’m al­ways in awe of how many Aus­tralians are vol­un­teers. Ac­cord­ing to Vol­un­teer­ing Aus­tralia, there are more than six mil­lion people who give their time to causes, clubs and or­gan­i­sa­tions they hold dear.

So what do the other 19 mil­lion people do?

For 2.7 mil­lion people there’s no time to vol­un­teer be­cause they are car­ing for some­one in their fam­ily in need. Ac­cord­ing to Car­ers Aus­tralia the av­er­age age of a carer is 55 and their main role is to take care of their par­ents; 856,000 are pri­mary car­ers for their fam­ily mem­bers due to dis­abil­ity, ill­ness or age; stun­ningly one in 10 car­ers are un­der the age of 25. In money terms, if some­one was get­ting paid to do what they do, it would cost more than

$60 bil­lion.

Then there’s a num­ber that’s get­ting big­ger by the year. More than a quar­ter of all homes in Aus­tralia have just one per­son liv­ing in them. The av­er­age age of women liv­ing alone is 64, men it’s 54. The big­gest rea­son for men liv­ing alone in their mid­dle age is fam­ily sep­a­ra­tion.

All these sta­tis­tics aren’t in­tended to be de­press­ing read­ing, but they are some of the many parts that lead to the over­all prob­lem of lone­li­ness. A prob­lem we can’t sim­ply ig­nore and hope our lives will some­how es­cape the many fac­tors that pull us away from each other.

A small step is to think of the people in your own cir­cle who are be­ing left be­hind. Pick up the phone for no rea­son other than to say hi. In­vite a mate you haven’t seen in a while to watch the footy at the pub, or maybe take the time you wanted to spend watch­ing a movie and talk to the old­est mem­ber of your fam­ily.

These won’t cure the prob­lem, but we need to take the time to let ev­ery­one know some­one knows they are here.

If you or a loved one need ex­tra sup­port, Life­line Aus­tralia pro­vides free 24/7 tele­phone cri­sis sup­port on 131 114. Other ser­vices and tools can be found at www.ruok.org.au/find­help.

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