Thursday 21 June 2018
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A million lonely older people spell public health disaster

A million lonely older people spell public health disaster. New research by Age UK, has found an increase in the number of chronically lonely older people. Campaigners warn of a growing public health crisis.

.Simon Bottery, Independent Age Director of Policy, said:

“These figures are yet more evidence that loneliness is a serious concern for older people. For many lonely older people the underlying cause is a lack of purpose in a society which has written them off as too old to contribute. To truly tackle loneliness among older people we need to provide not just befriending services but also to adjust our attitudes to later life and recognise that older people have skills and experience that we should be seeking out rather than shunning.”

About Independent Age:

Founded 150 years ago, Independent Age is a growing charity helping older people across the UK and Ireland through the ‘A, B, C’ of advice, befriending and campaigning. We offer a free national telephone and email advice service focusing on social care, welfare benefits and befriending services, which is supported by a wide range of printed guides and factsheets. This is integrated with on-the-ground, local support, provided by a network of over 1,500 volunteers offering one-to-one and group befriending.

Age UK Press Release

 A new Age UK survey has found that over one million people aged 65 plus in the UK describe themselves as always or often feeling lonely[i], up on last year[ii], and two in five (41%) say that their TV or pet is now their main form of company[iii]. The Charity is calling for donations to help fight loneliness through its vital national and local services.

Loneliness is a huge issue that affects people all year round with nearly a third (30%) of older people saying they would like to go out more often[iv]. Age UK’s research also reveals that one in eight people (12%) aged 65 plus are feeling cut off from society. Loneliness can be seriously damaging and recent studies have shown it has double the impact of obesity and that feeling extreme loneliness can increase an older person's chances of premature death by 14 per cent.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “At Age UK we know how devastating loneliness can be for older people and these figures are another reminder of the scale of this issue. Loneliness not only makes life miserable for older people it is also really bad for their health making them more vulnerable to illness and disease. It is time to take loneliness seriously and that’s why we’re asking everyone to take action by donating today to help us carry on supporting older people to make the most out of later life. Voluntary sector services like Age UK’s have never been more important because funding cuts are forcing many of the local services that help older people stay connected, such as lunch clubs, to scale down or close.”Actress Lynda Bellingham said: “As we begin to think about enjoying warmer weather and longer days, many older people are trapped indoors feeling very isolated and alone. Loneliness is a very real problem for too many people and that’s why I’m backing Age UK’s vital work in fighting this issue.”

Age UK is helping to tackle loneliness by supporting a range of services such as befriending which might include home visits and telephone calls for people who are feeling lonely or isolated. This offers company, reassurance and a vital link to the outside world, often acting as a gateway for other services and valuable support. Many local Age UKs also provide other social activities such as lunch clubs and day centre activities including exercise classes, coffee mornings, as well as volunteering opportunities which play a crucial part in preventing loneliness and helping make later life better. Regular contact from other local Age UK services can be life-changing and give older people the confidence they need to feel more connected and less isolated.