It has been estimated that as many as two million over-50s will be living a lonely isolated life in eight years time.
Chronic loneliness can seriously affect people’s health which could have a serious knock-on effect for the NHS, Britain’s biggest pensioner charity warns today.
Age UK is calling on the Government to introduce a “loneliness test” for all policy proposals.
It also wants to see help targeted towards people at key times which can trigger loneliness, such as going through a divorce or bereavement. Demographic trends mean the number of over-50s suffering from loneliness is set to reach two million by 2025/26.
The way we live today deprives older people of the company they desperately need.
This compares to about 1.4 million in 2016/17 according to research by Age UK.
Yesterday, Dame Esther Rantzen, founder of the Silver Line helpline, said: “We now recognise the serious harm caused by loneliness to physical and mental health.
“And what is even more tragic is the pain, the hopelessness, the loss of confidence and self-worth which loneliness creates.
“The way we live today deprives older people of the company they desperately need.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “We’re heading towards having two million lonely over-50s in less than a decade, with serious consequences for physical and mental health.
It has been estimated that as many as two million over-50s will be living a lonely isolated
“It makes sense to target help at people going through the kinds of experiences that put people at risk, whether you are in your youth and leaving college, or in later life, having recently been bereaved.”
One study concluded that lonely people have a 64 per cent increased chance of developing dementia and are more prone to depression.
The Age UK analysis found over50s are five times more likely to be “often lonely” if they are widowed.
The Daily Express is asking readers, their friends and family to sign our petition calling for the appointment of a Minister for Older People which says; “This role needs to be established because currently nobody is taking overall responsibility for ensuring society treats older citizens fairly.”
Almost 3,000 people have so far added their names, and at 10,000 signatures, the Government has to respond to the petition and when it is signed by 100,000 people, the call will be considered for debate in Parliament.
The Daily Express crusade Respect for the Elderly has consistently called for a voice at the highest Government level which would speak up on behalf of pensioners and champion their rights.
Please sign our online petition and show your support for pensioner fairness.
If you don’t have a computer at home, you can use one free-of-charge at your local library, and do not forget to remind your family and friends to sign too.
The link is petition.parliament.uk/petitions/220923
Sarah Smith, 75 and Lynne Butler, 72
CASE STUDY ONE
LYNNE Butler and Sarah Smith, along with cockapoo Ella, are firm friends who “enjoy spending time together”.
The two met when they moved into Austin Heath Retirement Village in Warwickshire. Mrs Butler, 72, a mother-of-three and grandmother-of-five, was widowed in 2016 after husband Peter died of pancreatic cancer.
The couple had worked together in the family car business and spent a lot of time together.
She said: “I couldn’t settle in my previous big house on my own. I had to do something so decided to sell up and move to an apartment here with the hope of meeting people.”
Mrs Smith, 75, a mother-of-three, was widowed at just 39.
She said she became lonely after retiring from her job in local government and her children moving away.
She said: “The village here organises lots of social events. Lynne and I get on well together.
“We’ve a lot in common and keep loneliness New friends Sarah Smith, 75, and Lynne Butler, 72 at bay by walking Ella out in the fresh air.”
Roy is more confident
CASE STUDY TWO
ROY Warman, 86, found himself becoming increasingly lonely after his wife Phyllis died last year.
The former BMW worker and Mrs Warman, 82, had been married 55 years and he found the loss very difficult.
The couple had no children and apart from his brother and sisters-in-law Mr Warman has no immediate family.
Mr Warman, of Swindon, said: “The last year before my wife’s death was busy as I had a routine of going to see her in hospital, care home or hospice.
“But after she died I would spend most days and evenings in the house alone. I still kept up playing bowls but I found the isolation draining.
“A leaflet came through my letterbox from Age UK and I rang it for some advice.
They told me about the visiting and telephone friendship services available.
“They started to make weekly telephone calls and matched me with Ruth, 31, my telephone friend.
“A lady came round and took me to buy a mini-tablet and her husband taught me to use it. I love it – I can email and send photos and Skype my friends.
“I’m much happier and more confident now. I’ve joined a local choir too and that’s wonderful.
It gets me out of the house to meet people.”
Comment – LAURA ALCOCK-FERGUSON Campaign To End Loneliness director
OUR ageing population is a major concern, but we can tackle loneliness. The social and health costs of loneliness (visits to GPs, A&E, prescriptions and other health-related costs) is £6,000 per person over 10 years.
In 2013 we asked 1,000 GPs how many people came simply to have someone to talk to.
Over three quarters said between one and five daily.
One in 10 doctors reported six to 10 lonely patients a day. Our research has also found that for £1 spent on loneliness intervention, we can expect up to a £3 return in health costs.
It pays to tackle loneliness – it has a devastating impact on physical and mental health.
Loneliness, living alone and poor social connections are as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or obesity.
We must support individuals and communities now before we reach crisis point.
Younger people must also be taught to invest in social connections.
Prevention is better than cure, that’s why the Campaign to End Loneliness started in 2011.
Older people are the most likely to suffer chronic loneliness. People of all ages need connections that matter.
We want to see all-age friendships become a normal part of life. Young and old can be each other’s solution to loneliness and we support introducing a loneliness test.
All policies should be looked at through a “loneliness lens” – whether they help people maintain connections with friends, families and neighbours.
Ageing population is a major concern.
Does this policy impact on people being able to connect? Does this bus route cut make it harder for older people to get out?
This year we launched Be More Us, to celebrate small moments of connection.
Our research found that nine in 10 people agree that small moments of connection, such as small talk on the bus or smiling at people, are valuable for tackling loneliness.
These are the first steps in getting people to connect.
We can all play a part. Be More Us is a great way to start.