When was the last time you saw older relatives? Do you know anyone living in great loneliness? I certainly do. My neglect of some of those I love dearly weighs heavily on me, when I allow it to – especially friends and family who are no longer around to visit.
Blaming long hours or distance is too easy. Today, the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, will call on us all to look at how we treat lonely people, to face up to what he calls the “national shame” of ignoring our relatives and neighbours who are in care, or isolated in their own homes. He’ll speak of the “forgotten million” who are chronically lonely, and will compare Britain’s neglect of the elderly with the reverential treatment they receive in China, where his wife was born. He could just as well have stuck a pin into a map of Asia, Africa or the Middle East and chosen another country. In remarks that will cut deep in a few families, he’ll say: “It will only start with changes in the way we personally treat our own parents and grandparents.”
Some readers will find it galling to hear such talk (nobody mention the Big Society!) from a Health Secretary who, on page 6, we take to task for sneaking through new powers allowing him to close successful hospitals. But on loneliness, I think Jeremy Hunt is right, in diagnosis and remedy. If we are not to become ever more remote in our castles as we age, we might have to find companionship closer to home. I was cheered by the example of Shaun Adamson, whose tale we tell, elsewhere on page 6.
Today’s i carries our new Friday arts and entertainment pages – your concise guide to going out and staying in. Food makes way and moves to Mondays. Hopefully the paper represents good value for you at 20 pence. As ever, please let us know what is (and what is not) to your liking.