The Social Periphery

– by Tiffani Clingin, BSW, Grad Dip (Family Therapy).

In any given moment, at least one in five people endure intense loneliness. Loneliness can be explained as an acute feeling of sadness blended with the absence of kinship. The impact of living on the social periphery is profound.

You might need to sit down before I tell you that loneliness increases our mortality risk by a whopping 45 percent and before you can say, “Gee, that’s second rate!” here’s another beastly statistic: isolated older people are 64 percent more likely to foster dementia. Lousy, I know.

So with this in mind:

  • Seek out a coworker or neighbour you only know a smidgeon about. A few years ago my son dropped fresh bread on the doorstep of our elderly neighbours. His impulsive kindness kick-started a long lasting friendship.
  • Tempted to text? Push delete and dial them instead.
  • Use Skype and show off your new haircut/cold sore/Justin Bieber tattoo to your isolated cousin.
  • Smile at strangers. My young son likes to give homeless people chocolate, warm tea and hugs.
  • Your barrister knows how you have your coffee? Ask how they like theirs.
  • Reach out to the old and wise. Years ago I offered an impromptu ride to the train station to an elderly stranger. I couldn’t resist, she was wearing a hand knitted sweater and had a mauve perm. Today, when we come across each other she introduces me as her “friend”.
  • Spare some kindness for the young too. Gaggles of teens hide their loneliness behind the deteriorating quality of social media. Then in my workroom they weep with loneliness.

I’m sure you get it.

With respect and love,


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