Caritas Outreach project lead, Tanya Trevena, shares some reflections on loneliness and isolation as part of Loneliness Awareness Week 2023.

“As we step into Loneliness Awareness week, I have been reflecting on my almost 2 years working in Plymouth for the Caritas Plymouth outreach project. It is easy to see how people can quickly become lonely. A change in circumstance can bring a newness to life that means you have to adjust. The loss of a spouse or family companion, children leaving home, a change in location, a new job, a change in health can all lead to a loneliness and a feeling of being isolated. Similarly, changes in our emotional wellbeing can lead to a feeling of disconnectedness or invisibility to those who are around us.

My initial conversations with parishioners included some who were still feeling the aftershocks of the pandemic. Some had absorbed a sense of fear and were unsure about mingling again, others had decided that the change of lifestyle had become habit and so they were just going to stay in. Other difficulties arise for those who would like to go out but are not able to drive to an event anymore and the thought of navigating bus changes to get themselves across the city is complicated and not easy. These parishioners may find that there only excursion is to come to Mass on a Sunday, and they are looking forward to being greeted by a warm, friendly congregation who will give them a little bit of their time. It’s not just the elderly that suffer from loneliness though, others may be at home with a new baby, navigating how to be a parent for the first time. Loneliness can affect anyone at any stage of life.

I am happy to say that we have had some success in Plymouth setting up new activities. An example of this are ‘Welcome Mondays’ held at Holy Family church. These sessions started as a Winter Warm Space, but it was clear that everyone involved, both volunteers and visitors enjoyed the opportunity to come together and experience community. Connecting over a free cuppa and games, people have grown in their belonging, we are a family. When asked what the benefits of coming are, people replied, “It’s a chance to see a smiling face”, “It’s made a difference to my life, I think the people that are coming here are lovely, very, very friendly and I really do enjoy it”, “It has given me something to look forward to”, “I meet new people every week and I leave every time, no matter how long of short it is with a spring in my step”.

We all need connectedness, a sense of belonging and to feel a part of something. So, if you were a person that went out and clapped for the NHS during COVID, perhaps you would like to continue the demonstration of reaching out to someone around you. Maybe each Thursday set aside a time to make a phone call or have a chat with a neighbour, checking in with them to make sure they are all right. You might like to volunteer to help with a community initiative, something that is close by, to help those in your area, or put yourself on the coffee rota and give just a bit of your Sunday to those who go home to an empty house.”

If you would like to know more about the projects in Plymouth, then please contact