A million over-65s ‘still at risk of loneliness as UK lockdown eases’ | Older people

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A review by 10 leading charities has found that a million people over 65 in the UK are likely to remain at risk of chronic loneliness despite the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

Loneliness, social isolation and living alone are all associated with an increased risk of early death, the Older People’s Task and Finish Group has said.

The group, part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Tackling Loneliness Network, also says that so many support organisations closed for good during lockdown that millions of older people are continuing to suffer loneliness, depression and deteriorating physical health.

The network, co-chaired by Independent Age and the Alzheimer’s Society, has found that only 7% of 96 support organisations questioned have returned to normal service after the pandemic.

Almost three-quarters of older people questioned in the network’s survey said they had no or significantly less support from the charities they had relied on before the pandemic.

“For people who told us loneliness was not just a product of lockdowns and shielding, but a symptom of their every day life before the pandemic, the easing of restrictions is not a silver bullet,” said Deborah Alsina, the chief executive of Independent Age.

Some older people are coping well since restrictions began to lift, but the group found that a sizeable minority are finding life is just as tough as during lockdown.

“The extremely damaging side-effects of lockdown – long periods of isolation, a loss of routine and social interaction – have caused significant mental health as well as physical health deterioration for people with dementia, many of them just ‘giving up’ on life, fading away,” said Fiona Carragher, the director of research and influencing at the Alzheimer’s Society.

“Many people we’ve spoken to are concerned that their isolation and loneliness will continue as restrictions ease because the support services they used previously have either shut down or are yet to be reinstated,” she added.

A further survey by Age UK found that, compared with before the pandemic, one in three respondents said they had less energy, one in four were unable to walk as far as before, and one in five felt less steady on their feet.

In addition, one in five found it harder to remember things, and more than one in four felt less confident about spending time with family.

“This pandemic has hit the fast-forward button on ageing for millions of older people,” said Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director. “According to our research, as many as a third of all older people really are struggling.”

Emily Kenward, the founder and CEO of Time to Talk Befriending, said the pandemic had had a catastrophic impact on older people’s confidence. “I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve heard older people tell us that they don’t want to live any more because they feel so invisible and alone,” she said.

“As we move into this new recovery and reintegration phase, 66% of our scheme members say they don’t yet feel ready to leave the four walls of their homes and 70% report a decline in their physical health acting as a barrier to getting out and about,” she added.

Jenny Bimpson, a volunteer project manager at the Chatty Cafe Scheme, said: “Volunteers report that many of the senior citizens they speak to are now too afraid to go back out into their towns and villages, as they are genuinely afraid to mix again in public. They have huge anxiety about this despite government guidelines changing.”

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: A million over-65s ‘still at risk of loneliness as UK lockdown eases’ | Older people

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