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Scheme tackles chronic loneliness in older people

10 January 2017 08:38

There are 1.2 million "chronically lonely" older people in the UK, according to Age UK

There are 1.2 million "chronically lonely" older people in the UK, according to Age UK

A new trial aimed at tackling widespread loneliness among older people is successfully reducing isolation using community-based tactics, a report shows.

Almost nine in 10 participants (88%) reported positive outcomes from the Age UK pilot, entitled 'Testing Promising Approaches to Reducing Loneliness'.

The scheme explored new ways to tackle the isolation plaguing 1.2 million "chronically lonely" older people in the UK.

Community-based approach

The pilot has developed new ways to identify and help older people who are suffering or likely to suffer from isolation and loneliness.

"Getting older people to engage and acknowledge their loneliness was challenging at times, but taking an individual approach to each client really pays off," says the Age UK Volunteering and Community Activities Manager.

The scheme works with local people, groups and businesses to recruit 'eyes on the ground' to recognise people who could be deemed as "at risk".

By developing a co-operative network of professionals in voluntary and public services such as GPs, nurses and social workers, the pilot was able to reach out via those who are already in contact with older people.

Once identified, the trial used "befriending services" to provide over-the-phone support and face-to-face friendship to encourage older people to reconnect with their community.

Some older people were matched with volunteer "befrienders" or introduced to social groups. While others were given practical support to help them get back on their feet after a fall or illness, or taught IT skills to help them to stay in touch with friends and family.

Older people can also look at taking out seniors travel insurance, giving them appropriate cover when travelling overseas to visit relatives.

Chronic loneliness is widespread

While the pilot has seen excellent results, it is some way from resolving the widespread loneliness that is common among older people.

Age UK reports that nearly half a million people over the age of 60 usually spend every day alone and a further half a million go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all.

The charity is calling on the Government to put loneliness in later life firmly on its agenda and support sustainable, long-term investment in local community resources to help lonely older people.