Loneliness has degrees
I am not starving, though there can be days when my voice dries in my throat for lack of use. I have regular phone calls from friends and family. An average of once or twice a week. Face to face perhaps once a fortnight and cheerful greetings from neighbours.
But as there is a difference between starving and not having a nourishing diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables the lack of close companionship, the sense of being special to someone, the absence of people who share my tastes and interests and the opportunity to discuss and explore ideas is a profound lack.
Some of this situation is compounded by disability which makes it difficult for me to seek out kindred spirits and develop friendship by sharing activities such as educational classes.
As long as my health remains as it is, I see no resolution. A kindly stranger without common interests would not fulfil this need, just as an orange-flavoured drink would not necessarily meet vitamin C requirements.
I am not the only one in such a situation. I am aware of a woman in her late eighties in sheltered accommodation, starved of stimulating conversation. I offered telephone friendship as we had a love of books and history, but her hearing and concentration on the phone made this more pain than pleasure for her. Her old friends are frail too and coming to the end of their lives. The daily small talk and communal coffee mornings, which focus on gossip and television, do not interest her.
Like me, she is lonely.