In a recent blog on loneliness in later life, we looked at how being lonely can have a harmful impact on life, health and even the economy, but particularly how it can negatively affect older people and especially those living alone.
In this follow-up blog, we examine the ways that older people can both be helped, and help themselves, to overcome loneliness.
And we’ll be discussing these topics and more at the Clarion Loneliness Summit, being held on 10th September 2019. Speakers will include TV’s Dr. Hilary Jones, a well-known and trusted face to millions, speaking in his capacity as Medical Advisor to Acorn Stairlifts, as well as representatives from the public and private sectors. The Summit will spotlight the fantastic work that is being done by these organisations to help address the loneliness epidemic in older people. You can find out more about the Clarion Loneliness Summit in our Events section.
What can older people do to alleviate their loneliness and how can we help?
Loneliness and social isolation are, first and foremost, a social issue that needs to be overcome by the Government, the medical profession, social workers, organisations, charities, and of course, the families of the elderly, as well as the wider communities in which they live.
Organisations such as Age UK and the Campaign to End Loneliness and businesses such as Acorn Stairlifts, have, in recent years, raised the profile of this issue. And the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness has been successful in encouraging the Government to accept many of its recommendations, including appointing a Minister for Loneliness.
In fact, the Government has further demonstrated its commitment to combatting loneliness by making it one of four Grand Challenges it has set itself and the UK to meet as part of its Industrial Strategy. The Government states that “We will harness the power of innovation to help meet the needs of an ageing society.” The Government’s aim is to invest in healthy living to ensure existing and future generation can enjoy at least five extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035.
For older people suffering from loneliness, there are a number of things they themselves, and the wider community, can do to tackle the issue:
People can reach out to an elderly person in their community and invite them to socialise
If you know of an elderly person in your community who may be isolated socially, then why not try reaching out to them. Befriend them, or help them to become involved in local activities in your community. These will vary but chances are there’ll be groups, such as book clubs, walking groups or bridge nights that they can join.
Learn to love computers
Computers are not just a good way to stay in touch with friends and relatives - particularly those who may live far away. They also offer, through the rise of social media, people the chance to reconnect with those they may have lost touch with over the years. Computers can also give older people the chance to make new friends or chat to others with similar interests via website forums and other types of social media. Libraries and community centres often hold regular training classes for older people, as well as allowing the use of their computers for free, and local branches of Age UK also run classes to help older people get to grips with new technology.
A note of caution here - older people, who often have less experience of using the internet, do run the risk of leaving themselves open to scammers, who are known to use social media sites like Facebook or Twitter to trick the unsuspecting.
Take advantage of services available to tackle loneliness
Services aimed at reducing loneliness in old people can be grouped into three broad categories: one-to-one interventions, group services and wider community engagement. Not every type of service will be the right fit for everyone, but the most promising include befriending schemes, social group schemes, and Community Navigators, all of which involve giving older people the chance to make new friends by building social connections in the wider community.
Clarion Loneliness Summit
Whilst the voluntary sector has long been responsible for doing the majority of the hard work to help combat loneliness in the community, organisations from the private and public sectors are now also doing their bit to help tackle this problem. They are delivering fantastic work to help address the loneliness epidemic, including tech advances in assistive living and support for community lead projects.
This kind of work – what it is, how it helps - is part of what we will be featuring at Clarion Loneliness Summit, on Tuesday 10th September.
This event will not only feature Dr. Hilary Jones, representing Acorn Stairlifts, which, as the world’s leading stairlift provider, helps many mostly older people stay in their own homes for longer. We’ll also be joined by representatives from Tunstall Healthcare Trust, who do a lot of work to help keep elderly people living independently in their own homes.
Also taking part are representatives from both the University of Leeds and the organisations Friends Against Scams who will be discussing the great work that is being done across the public and private sectors to help beat the lonliness epidemic.
We’ll end with a panel discussion featuring advocates from Leeds Community Foundation, Shared Lives Plus and Sporting Memories Foundation, who will discuss their support for connecting communities and their efforts to prevent loneliness and isolation.
This thought-provoking event promises to not only emphasise the great work being done to help older people gain those five extra years the Government is aiming for, but will also highlight the areas where more work can - and must - be done to help older people live fuller lives.
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