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Is loneliness now an epidemic among the elderly?

Loneliness among the UK’s ageing population is widely publicised as a health hazard which can increase the risk of depression, dementia and heart attacks.

The size of the loneliness challenge

The Campaign to End Loneliness reports that 10% of those aged over 65 are chronically lonely while Age UK has found that almost a million older people haven’t spoken to anyone in a month.

Stannah’s Silver Census has recorded localised statistics concluding that London pensioners are among the loneliest elderly in England.

In the heart of such a busy, vibrant city it’s shocking to hear that the ageing members of society feel so cut off from family and friends, craving companionship.

What’s the cause?

Loneliness is a complex issue which can be a symptom of physical, emotional and social isolation.

Elderly people who have lost loved ones, their independence or mobility must rely on friends, neighbours and relatives to keep them company and assist them with day-to-day living. If they’re left unaided then they’re dependent on professional carers or the kindness of strangers and charitable groups to ensure they’re living well.

What can we do?

If you’re concerned your elderly parent, relative, friend or neighbour is feeling lonely there are ways you can help to ensure that they’re involved in activities to improve their quality of life.

Encouraging them to visit local centres and lunch clubs can work, although they’re not for everyone.

The good news is that there are growing numbers of innovative ideas for giving the elderly – including the housebound – opportunities to meet more people. Schemes ranging from homeshares, through tea time parties to TalkTime telephone clubs are springing up across Britain as well as workshops to educate communities about combating social isolation.

Animal lovers may benefit from a pet to help stave off feelings of loneliness.

While the internet may be an alien concept, helping your parent to learn the basics can keep them connected with family members who live further away through Skype or over Facebook, and allow them insight into the goings on of family life.

For further tips on combating social isolation in old age, download our guide to helping your parent overcome loneliness.

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