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Tackling the emerging loneliness crisis for older men

The number of older men living alone is set to increase by 65% by 2030 according to a report published in October 2014. Andrew Kaye, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Independent Age, one of the organisations behind the report, discusses whether loneliness is inevitable.

Hardly a week seems to go by without another depressing report coming out about the latest health risks that all of us face as we get older. Whether it’s a lack of exercise, a poor diet or alarming new warnings about this or that type of green vegetable or fruit juice we are better off avoiding, it is hard to be served a constant diet of bad news.

Fortunately most of these reports tend to contain positive and practical tips about what we and, crucially, our parents can do to prevent poor health. It is all very well hearing that sedentary lifestyles are bad for you, but if our mums and dads struggle with mobility problems – say after a stroke – what we really want to see are the simple bits of guidance that realistically help them to maximise their independence.

It was in this spirit we produced Isolation: the emerging crisis for older men, our joint report with the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC-UK).

It’s important we highlight the risks of social isolation and loneliness. After all, the impact of feeling lonely has now been compared with the effect of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

But by warning social isolation and loneliness are becoming bigger problems for older people we also need to take some responsibility for tackling these issues.

One of the main findings from our new research is that there is nothing inevitable about becoming lonelier as we get older. This applies to all of us, men and women.

What can trigger a deeper sense of loneliness are the major life events that tend to affect us more later on in life. Losing a loved one, seeing your family move away, retiring and the onset of new health problems can each in their own way cause older people to feel cut off.

More of our parents will in all likelihood find they spend at least some of their lives living alone. In our report we highlighted the increase in the numbers of older men living alone as a particular concern. In fact, we estimated there will be a 65% increase in the numbers of men aged 65 or older living by themselves by 2030.

But whether we are thinking about our parents, there are a number of simple things we can all do to stay socially connected and avoid loneliness.

At Independent Age we have produced our top ten tips that your parents might like to consider. From simple things like making sure our parents aren’t afraid of regularly picking up the phone to staying active, finding out what’s going on in the area and even getting internet savvy, together we can take steps to combat the problem.

Your parents might also find our Wise Guide “Healthy, happy, connected” useful – download the full guide or call 0800 319 6611 for a free print copy.

When They Get Older also have a guide full of ideas on how to help your parents avoid loneliness ready to download directly from their Free Stuff section.

If you found this article helpful, why not join the family?

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