Social isolation among older people is a longstanding issue that is increasing with a rapidly ageing global population.
In the UK, the loneliness epidemic has been widely reported. One particular finding stated that around “200,000 older people in Britain had not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month” illustrating the severity of the problem.
Not only is loneliness linked to illnesses including heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease, but “it’s proven to be worse for health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” Contact IFA Expert Dr Ian Philp, a UK leader in the field of ageing, for more information about the health impact of loneliness on older people.
To address the issue of loneliness, a Minister was appointed to confront this societal challenge and improve the experiences of socially isolated older people.
However, this is not the only step that has been taken to address increasing loneliness in the UK. General Practitioners in England will now be able to refer socially isolated patients to activities that could help tackle feelings of loneliness, a concept known as “social prescribing.” This will allow doctors to refer patients to social activities such as walking clubs and arts groups, instead of offering medication.
Doctors aren’t the only professionals getting involved in community initiatives aimed at combating loneliness. In Liverpool, social isolation in older people is being addressed through the Royal Mail’s “Feet on the Street” program, in which postal workers will stop and chat with older people on their delivery routes. For Sue Whalley, the CEO of Royal Mail Post, this new community initiative builds on the work that postal workers already do and solidifies the “role we already play in tackling loneliness and isolation, providing individuals with a way to access the local services they really need."
Interested in learning more about the impact that loneliness has on older people? Contact Dr Jane Barratt, Secretary of the International Federation on Ageing to learn more about the global impact of loneliness on ageing populations.
Dr. Ian Philp Deputy Medical Director
Dr. Philp joined Heart of England NHS Foundation on 7 July as Deputy Medical Director for Older People
Dr. Jane Barratt Secretary General
As Secretary General of the IFA Dr Barratt is an internationaly respected speaker on age related issues across the globe.