Lately, loneliness is never too far from discussions on aging. With the addition of the United Kingdom’s Minister for Loneliness, the term has become tantamount with dialogue on improving the health and well-being of older people, and the drive to pay attention to the mental health of older people. Dr Bradley Willcox focuses his work on healthy ageing and can speak to the need for holistic health interventions in order to maintain health with age.
According to Harvard Medicine Magazine (HMM), loneliness has captured the attention of numerous healthcare providers, and has been compared to an epidemic of equal detriment to cigarette smoking. Indeed, “research from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that 43% of older adults report feelings of loneliness. A 2013 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences even found that social isolation and loneliness are associated with a higher risk of mortality.” This level of risk associated with loneliness begs the question of what can be done in response.
The answer, according to HMM, is prescribing friendship - giving older people, who may have multiple health conditions that make it hard for them to get around on their own, the opportunity for social interaction. The type of interaction can be varied, says HMM, with interventions including weekly phone calls, home visits, encouragement, and connection to community-based programs.
Most importantly, combating loneliness means taking its symptoms as seriously as any other clinical condition, and never underestimating the importance of friendship in changing someone’s outlook. Dr Anthea Tinker has expertise in social isolation and loneliness and can speak to the various types of interventions to counter loneliness.
Dr. Bradley Willcox Professor and Director of Research
Dr. Willcox is also an author of a NY Times best-selling book on healthy aging
Dr. Anthea Tinker Professor of Social Gerontology
Anthea Tinker's main areas of research interest are social policy and research ethics, specialising since 1974 in Gerontology.