Older age is a time of major transition in our lives with life-changing events such as retirement, bereavement, decline in mobility and other physical functions. All of which can contribute to mounting isolation and loneliness. There are 10.8 million people aged over 65 in the UK today.
Who is most at risk of being lonely and isolated?
Those who are 80+ and on a low income are most likely to be isolated and lonely. They are often in poor physical or mental health, living alone in isolated rural areas or deprived urban areas.
Long term or chronic loneliness is a day to day situation for so many older people:
- 1.6 million living below the poverty line
- 3.8 million living alone
- 5 million say the TV is their main form of company
- 500,000 spend Christmas Day alone
Source: Independent Age
The harm loneliness does
Chronic loneliness is responsible for many detrimental impacts on our health and well-being, There is strong evidence that loneliness increases pressure on already stretched care and clinical services.
- Loneliness has a proven link to mortality similar in size to cigarette smoking, and is worse for us than obesity.
- Loneliness is associated with the onset of conditions such as cardiovascular disease, dementia, poor sleep and depression.
- Lonely older people are more likely to have early admission to residential or nursing care.
The damaging impact of loneliness is a real incentive for us to ensure that our older people stay better connected throughout their later lives. To learn more about the effects of loneliness on health read The Mental Health Foundation's report.
Lend your support
There is a large network of people and organizations across the UK trying to support older people in need. Organisations interested in helping can join The Campaign to End Loneliness or find intervention resources at the local government level.