A survey released last month revealed a series of shocking and depressing statistics about how lonely many older people are. It estimates that 1.3 million older people in the UK spend two months a year completely alone without seeing anyone, with 1 in 5 women over 65 saying they have gone for a week or longer without speaking to a single other person.
The release of these statistics marks the beginning of the Every Visit Counts campaign that aims to raise awareness and provide ways to help combat loneliness amongst older people in our communities. Professor Christina Victor, an expert in loneliness and isolation in the older population, provides these 5 ways to combat loneliness:
1) Spend time with people with whom you share a common interest
Do you get giddy about gardening? Are you crazy for cooking? Or mad about motorcycles? Sharing your interest with someone is a great way to become friends and provides an activity for you to do together.
2) Make friends with people of different ages
It is very tempting to only spend time with our contemporaries but a lot can be gained by opening ourselves up to making friends with people of all ages. Shared Lives Plus has built on this attitude and arranges everything from Homeshares to day trips. In a Homeshare, a householder who needs a small amount of help to live independently can provide accommodation for a homesharer who is often a young student or similar who provides support and companionship. This can be a great way to not only provide an arrangement that benefits both parties but also a friendship that spans generations.
3) Contact people in ways that work for you
Whether it is meeting in person, having a pen pal or calling on the phone, find the way to keep in touch with your loved ones in a way that suits you best. Modern technology is now making this even easier with applications such as Skype where you can have a virtual face-to-face conversation anywhere across the globe. It has never been easier to stay connected.
4) Get friendly with your neighbours
Research by the Young Foundation has shown that people who have regular contact with their neighbours and know people well in their local area have a much better sense of wellbeing. This can help develop a real sense of community. So whether it starts with just saying hello over the garden fence or inviting them over for tea, give it a go.
5) Get involved
It is important to stay active by engaging in activities. This could be volunteering at the local school, joining the nearby book club or attending any exciting events in your area. There is lots of opportunities, so go and give something a try!