At some point in our life we’ve all felt lonely. As we grow older, loneliness and mental health still continue to have an impact on how we live. It is important to take care of those around us and know when to spot the signs of loneliness.
Our blog this month takes a look at how we can fight back against loneliness in the elderly, taking care of those we love.
The experience of loneliness is an extremely personal feeling. For most people, it will get better over time. However, that is not always the case. According to Age UK, there are around 3.6 million elderly people in the UK who live alone. Of these, more than 2 million are aged over 75 years. Additionally, 1.9 million believe that they feel invisible or ignored on a regular basis.
The same can be said for the elder generation in the US. In March 2019, the latest National Poll on Healthy Aging stated that a third of the elderly population are lonely.
During 2018 Age UK worked with Care Connect at the University of Sheffield to research loneliness in specific groups. These included older men, the LGBT+ community and ethnic minorities.
Research has found that more men than ever are experiencing loneliness. On top of this, the findings suggest that 8 million men feel lonely at least one time a week.
Those in the LGBT+ community are more likely to live alone, be single and contact relatives less. Each of these factors leads to an increase in loneliness. Shockingly, over 4 out of 5 do not trust professionals to understand their needs, culture or lifestyle.
Again, it is the same for those in the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) community. Despite being more likely to spend time with family members, they have less involvement with local activities and their peers.
You can view the Interim Report from the University of Sheffield.
There are several ongoing projects for the elderly to get involved with if they are feeling lonely. In Devon, the local council have carried out research into the local area and loneliness. According to the results, only 42.8% of social care users believed they have the amount of contact they wanted. This compares to 46.4% in Dorset and 50.5% in Worcestershire.
Also, they compiled a list of the areas in Devon where loneliness was most likely to occur:
At the end of 2018, the government released the first ever loneliness strategy in the UK. They aim to tackle this issue by using social prescribing. This gives GPs the ability to refer a patient who they think is experiencing loneliness.
What Can We Do?
The best thing any of us can do for those that we love is to recognise the signs of loneliness. However, it isn’t always easy to do this. Age UK suggest that you should look out for:
- Not eating correctly
- Neglecting hygiene and appearance
- A significant change in routine
- Saying they feel worthless
Another thing to do is involve those around you. Suggest joining a local society or club and find out what’s happening in the local area. If travel is an issue, then look into what there is available. Local authorities will be able to advise you on railcards and more. As the elderly receive free bus travel, this is another great way to get out.
The Samaritans can be contacted in the UK on 116 123. There is also The Silver Line which can be reached on 0800 4 70 80 90.