Has the West lost its ability to care for the vulnerable in society? Taking care of our own families is increasingly difficult in the 21st century; especially if some members live abroad and far away from other family members. The UK and many parts of the western world now operate in broken systems where many fall through gaps. However, rather than relying on the state, now is the time for families and communities to come together to help each other out no matter the reason for isolation.
Why are we becoming more Isolated?
There are a number of reasons for this – the industrial revolution moved people about for work and separated communities. Now adults are more likely to move away from home for education and for work. Their partners are more likely to come from a third place, and both can move around over time. With the breakdown of families came the rise of state organised social and health care which took over from the family unit. Instead of relying upon each other, care was moved over to the state. However, the state cannot replicate the close bonds of family and so the sick and the elderly become more isolated over time.
Studies in the UK, for example, have shown the detrimental effects of social isolation and loneliness on the elderly. These include:
- Over 50% of those over 75 live alone
- Many are depressed, suffer sleeplessness and early onset dementia
- 26% more likely to die than those living with others
- More likely to smoke 15+ cigarettes a day
Furthermore, UK studies are showing that 60% of people do not visit their elderly relatives on Christmas Day and 33% of people with relatives needing care visited once a month or less. This is why it is important to do the following:
- Call your loved ones today
- Encourage them to be more social – join groups, clubs etc…
- Get them to have a low maintence pet like a cat
- Get them on Facebook
Even the smallest things can help a loved one feel less lonely.
Brexit Could Isolate British Expats
An unknown number, thought to be at least 1 million, British expats live across the EU as it would remain after Brexit. Many of these in warmer countries like Spain are retirees. In the Netherlands including Haarlem there is more of a mix including professionals, students, and people of all backgrounds. Current EU-UK negotiations are deciding the rights and obligations of EU citizens in the UK and vice versa. These will determine things like voting rights, pensions, healthcare access, rights to work, and so on.
It is entirely possible that UK citizens in Haarlem are feeling isolated by the political decisions going on around them. Few to none would have voted for Brexit, but they will reap its repercussions nevertheless. It is therefore incumbent upon other expats and local residents to rally around and ensure that those Brits living in Haarlem are not adversely affected or discriminated against for things beyond their control.
This is still a time for solidarity and togetherness no matter the cause of the isolation be it age, background, unemployment, poor health, religion, or mental health. That is why it is important for communities to not just stick together with those they know, but to remember those who are alone.
For more information on the Campaign Against Social Isolation check out vida.co.uk
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