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New guidance tackles loneliness in older people

23 December 2015 16:37

A senior woman is helped to use the internet

A senior woman is helped to use the internet

Councils should offer more activities for older people to stave off loneliness, such as singing and internet training, a health watchdog says.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has published new guidance aimed at increasing independence and mental wellbeing.

It says older people should be encouraged to join community choirs, read to young children in schools and take part in group walks. Local authorities should also promote arts and crafts and other creative activities, Nice believes.

Another way to boost well-being is by taking a holiday. Pensioners up to the age of 100 can travel abroad with seniors travel insurance.

Technical support

There is a need to offer "intergenerational activities", according to Nice, which uses the examples of older people helping with reading in schools or young people providing older people with support to use new technologies.

The watchdog wants pensioners to be given technical support so they can get to grips with mobile phones and internet-enabled TVs and computers.

The importance of maintaining friendships to prevent loneliness is also highlighted, with calls for schemes such as befriending programmes in places of worship or home visits between people of similar ages.

The mental health benefits of volunteering should also be made much clearer to older people, Nice says.

Life events

The watchdog also says that health workers in contact with older people should be made aware that certain life events or circumstances are more likely to increase the risk of physical and mental decline.

Older people whose partners have died in the past two years are particularly at risk, it explains.

Professor Gillian Leng, director of health and social care at Nice, says ageing affects everyone differently and there are many factors that contribute to a person's ability to remain independent, avoid loneliness and maintain their mental wellbeing.

The new guidelines offer advice on putting this into practice. Professor Leng adds that this includes looking at what is already in local areas and how it can be improved. Are there any transport difficulties, for example, and do older people know there are activities and services available?