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Lifestyle

Tackle loneliness this Christmas: Six ways you can help today

We all know that in our later years we are more vulnerable to feeling lonely and isolated - but how many of us actually do anything to help?

The charity Age UK has claimed that more than one million older people regularly go an entire month without speaking to anyone - and more than half of those have never spoken to anyone about how they feel.

Tackling loneliness

Tackling loneliness

As we move into later life, our personal circumstances naturally change. Retirement, bereavement and poor physical or mental health can all cause chronic loneliness to set in, which can then lead to a vicious cycle of further health problems.

Recent studies have shown that loneliness and isolation can be linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, an increased risk of dementia, anxiety and depression. In fact, some experts believe loneliness is as damaging for our health as smoking and obesity.

The loss of confidence that can come, both in later life and from feeling the effects of isolation, means many cases of loneliness go unnoticed. Loneliness makes us reluctant to reach out and people of the older generation particularly, tend to worry about being a ‘burden’ to others.

But the truth is, loneliness is everyone’s business. We all need friendship, we all need support and we all need to feel connected. Getting older doesn’t have to mean getting lonelier.

Do you know a mature person who might be feeling lonely? Here’s what to do:

● Get to know your neighbours. This will create a sense of community and can be a real support to someone silently in need.

● Plan holidays and birthdays well in advance so that distant relatives feel included when it really matters.

● Offer to take someone older you know out for a coffee or to the shop - this can help to break up the monotony of someone’s day.

● Remind them of their worth - show an interest, ask their advice, listen to their stories.

● If they are able, encourage them to join a club, learn a new skill or volunteer - primary schools are always looking for people to listen to children read.

● Show them they are not alone. There are times when everybody feels lonely but there’s always a way to reach out to other people.

Sources:

Age UK

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/loneliness/#.WhfryrSFh7g

Campaign to End Loneliness

https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/threat-to-health/

NHS UK

https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/women60-plus/Pages/Loneliness-in-older-people.aspx

Office for National Statistics data suggests there were 1,755,347 females over 60 year olds and 1,142,314 men, living in a single person household in 2016 and new insights show that the South West has the highest percentage of over 60’s living alone (5.8%), followed closely by Wales (5.2%) and Scotland (5%).

Aside from these top three locations, elderly men living alone are most likely to reside in the North of England compared to women who more commonly live in the South East and Yorkshire.

The full regional breakdown can be found below.

Regions

Regional Population (2016)

Sum of Male 60+

Sum of Female 60+

Total Sum of Male and Female 60+

Total % of over 60's

Total % of males 60+

Total % of females 60+

East Midlands

4,724,437

76,117

112,541

188,659

3.99%

1.61%

2.38%

East of England

6,130,542

104,262

170,528

274,789

4.48%

1.70%

2.78%

London

8,787,892

107,490

191,401

298,891

3.40%

1.22%

2.18%

North East

2,636,848

50,694

66,873

117,567

4.46%

1.92%

2.54%

North West

7,219,623

142,054

192,842

334,896

4.64%

1.97%

2.67%

Scotland

5,404,700

116,700

157,189

273,888

5.07%

2.16%

2.91%

South East

9026297

159,034

279,499

438,534

4.86%

1.76%

3.10%

South West

5,515,953

123,323

198,076

321,399

5.83%

2.24%

3.59%

Wales

3,113,150

62,824

98,977

161,802

5.20%

2.02%

3.18%

West Midlands

5800734

97,338

131,492

228,830

3.94%

1.68%

2.27%

Yorkshire and the Humber

5425741

102,478

155,929

258,407

4.76%

1.89%

2.87%

Grand Total

 

1,142,314

1,755,347

2,897,661