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Help combat loneliness in older people

Posted on 28/03/2017

Loneliness is one of the biggest problems facing the older generation in 2017. Being lonely can have a huge impact on both mental and physical health, so it’s something that needs addressing and an issue that we can all help to combat.

The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness is an initiative that aims to help shine a spotlight on the issue of loneliness in people of all ages and promote positive steps we can take to help. The campaign has a whole host of respected partners, including Age UK, The Silver Line and Alzheimer’s Society, as well as MPs and policy makers, working together to address this significant issue.

The organisations involved all have their own shocking statistics to highlight the spread and impact of loneliness. A study by The Co-Op and the British Red Cross found that over 9 million people of all ages in the UK are either always or often lonely, and Age UK says that 3.6 million people aged 65 and over use television as their main form of company.

Loneliness can affect both the young and the old, from any walk of life, but for many older people, loneliness is a prime concern. Many older people live alone with no family living nearby and often after the loss of a partner. They can go long periods of time without speaking to anyone from the outside world. A campaign by The Silver Line is challenging you to go seven days without using social media and donating £7 to the charity to highlight how many older people can go seven days without chatting to anyone. The Silver Line is a free helpline for older people that can be called at any time day or night and offers company, advice and friendship for older people.

Older people can find it harder to get out of the cycle of loneliness. It can be harder to get out and about, access transport services or even go shopping, which means that the opportunity for social interaction is limited. Those who live in more rural areas may be lamenting the loss of small, local services and feeling more isolated than ever.

So, what can we do to help? It can start within your own family; make sure that older relatives are looked after and offer company, even if only over the phone. Elderly relatives may benefit from a companionship service for human contact, or you could help research ways to get out and go to local classes and events on a regular basis. Check in on elderly neighbours, as they may also be feeling lonely, particularly if they live alone.

If you wish to make a bigger impact, you could volunteer for a local group or charity working in your area to help older people. There are befriending services available in some areas, where you can meet regularly with an older person. If you’re active, GoodGym combines exercise with social visits for isolated and lonely older people.

Find out more about the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness here: www.jocoxloneliness.org

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