Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was estimated to be an “epidemic” of loneliness is the U.K. This relates not solely to elderly people (almost 20% of the U.K. population are aged 65 or over), but, increasingly to young people (some research has shown that the use of social media and increased time spent online has contributed to the problem). ONS figures indicate that the numbers of people living alone increased between 2009 and 2019 by 9% (from 7.5 to 8.2 million). In the elderly, loneliness can contribute to increases in morbidity and/or mortality. In the young, it can contribute to mental health issues and problems with socialization. The pandemic has re-emphasised the need for human beings to connect with each other. During the pandemic, in some cases, loneliness has increased due to social isolation, but in other cases, the opportunity to use new technology has meant that increasing numbers of people of all ages are connecting in ways that they never did before. After the pandemic, we should create opportunities to address some deep-seated societal problems, including loneliness. In finding solutions to this problem, we may be able to turn some of the negative consequences of the pandemic into positive opportunities for the future. In particular, using the wisdom and experience of the retired population (both virtually and in person) to assist the young to address challenges such as how to find a job and build a satisfying career in an environment with a high level of unemployment. In addition, empty retail spaces on our high streets could be put to use as places for human re-connection, strengthening communities and sharing information. Investment is such projects (examples of which are provided in section 2), could benefit society in multiple ways.
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