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Page 3 Profile: Bobby Brooks-Phillips, charity volunteer

Have I seen him around somewhere?

Probably not. Bobby Brooks-Phillips is currently undertaking an “isolation challenge”. He is spending one week alone indoors, without any electronic communication,  completely cut off from the outside world.

Challenge? Sounds like an excuse to put his feet up…

It’s not as fun as it might sound. Brooks-Phillips will not be stepping out his front door once, and will not have access to his mobile phone or other electronic devices we use to while away the hours on. His challenge began in earnest yesterday morning when his husband Matt moved out of their home in Richmond, south west London, taking their pet dog Rosie with him. 

When you put it that way, it actually sounds kind of lonely…

It probably will be. He is undertaking the task to help raise awareness of the charity Contact the Elderly, which organises regular tea parties for people aged over 75 living with little or no social support. Brooks-Phillips, originally from Ohio in the United States, has been living in the UK since 2009 and has hosting teas for some time. As well as raising money for the charity, he wants to highlight that for many elderly people, total isolation is a way of life.

Okay, you’re depressing me now...

Well, think how it feels for scores of elderly people that remain forgotten up and down the country. Loneliness can be twice as unhealthy as obesity, researchers recently found. Previous studies have linked loneliness to a range of health problems 

In his recent book, Loneliness, John Cacioppo, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, says that the pain of loneliness is akin to physical pain.

So what should we do about this?

Well, it’s not all doom and gloom. Contact the Elderly is dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation among older people. The tea parties offer them a regular and vital friendship link.

Guests are collected from their homes and taken to a volunteer host’s home for the afternoon. The teas bring people of all ages together, provide support networks for those in need and give everyone involved something to look forward to. Brooks-Phillips was inspired to carry out the experiment after his guests opened up to him about their own experiences.

How does he think he’ll manage?

Before the challenge started he admitted that he was nervous but that he hoped to inspire others to get involved with Contact the Elderly and connect with isolated older people. He said: “Many of the people that the charity supports were living their lives in similar ways, with no outside contact with anyone.”

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