MHAW: Loneliness and Older People

Published: 11 May 2022 to 31 December 2098

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week’s 2022 theme of ‘loneliness’, we support older people with in a variety of physical and mental health issues across several of our services.

Something that is widely known and acknowledged is how older people tend to experience loneliness in the elder years. Further to this, coming out of a two-year pandemic, in which time many of our nation’s older people have been deemed as high risk with a need to isolate to protect themselves from Covid-19 transmission, loneliness is high on our agenda when working with the communities we serve.

According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family.

We want to let our older generations know that there are always ways to reconnect with others, even if you cannot physically get out and about like you used to. Here are some suggestions that may help you get started:

Join a befriending service

Our Voluntary Services established a telephone befriending service at the beginning of the pandemic, ran by our volunteers. The telephone befriending project is a service that connects volunteers with an older person, who they call from time to time to help them feel less isolated and cared for in times of loneliness.

Many of our regular volunteers remain dedicated to our service, calling service users a couple of times a week, and thoroughly enjoy the conversations and connections made over time.

Our older people have been positively impacted by this over the years, stating that they look forward to the calls each week and cannot thank our wonderful volunteers enough for the time they so generously give.

From the end of May, our telephone befriender service will be managed by CallER Collective, which is part of HEY Smile Foundation. The CallER Collective service is available for self-referral from 8am to 10pm every day and can be accessed by calling 01482 215929. Family and friends can also refer on someone’s behalf. For more information, visit www.callercollective.co.uk

Further afield, national organisations such as Age UK run similar services if you would like to sign up. Find out more here.

Use technology to stay connected

While we appreciated that some older people may feel reluctant or worried about learning to use new technologies, there’s no denying how handy they can be for keeping in touch with those you love or meeting new people with similar interests.

Joining social media sites such as Facebook may be helpful, as you can reconnect with others you used to know, or join new groups that interest you. You can also use video calls to see those who may live far away in real time, such as Facetime, Skype or Zoom.

Your local library will have computers you can use if you are able to get out and about and do not wish to buy your own. They also may be able to set you up with some training sessions to get you started.

You can find your local library here.

Join a volunteering or local interest group

If mobility allows, join a local group in something that you’re interested in. This could be anything from arts and crafts to sports or a book club, to name a few.

You could also spend your time volunteering for a local organisation that aligns with your goals and beliefs, such as volunteering or joining an engagement group within our local NHS.

It’s important that we come together in times like these to support those around us. Whatever the cause of loneliness, and whoever it may be affecting, social isolation can lead to health problems, including depression and a decline in physical health.

Let’s come together to end loneliness.

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