Isolation and Loneliness
There is a wealth of evidence that demonstrates that loneliness and social isolation are significant issues affecting our older population. Over 50,000 older people in Wales are lonely. Projections show that there will be a 50% increase by 2030 in the number of people over 50 experiencing loneliness. Data from the Cognitive Function and Ageing Study – Wales found that 25.3% of older people (aged 65 and over) in Wales reported being lonely and 26.9% socially isolated. Loneliness can be twice as unhealthy as obesity or the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Cymru Older People’s Alliance believe that isolation and loneliness is a major issue for older people in Wales which needs urgent attention.
What Do COPA want to see happen to combat isolation and loneliness?
- The forthcoming Welsh Government strategy must be given a priority and sufficient funding for Councils and the Third Sector to implement it effectively
- The lessons from research on this issue, including from Swansea University, should be applied to both policy and practice by Government, the Local Health Boards and Councils.
- Support and funding could be provided for inter-generational activities between old and young in an organised and structured programme.
- The impact of isolation and loneliness for older men living alone and its consequences for pressures on social services, housing etc should not be ignored.
- Transport is essential to many older people who cannot or no longer drive a car and an effective integrated transport system will help reduce loneliness.
- Over 40% of people over 75 do not have or use a computer. Inclusion of Older People of all ages through IT learning and support and access to services and help “face to face” not just “online” will help combat loneliness.
- Tackling isolation and loneliness must include help through GPs and community health services.
- Loneliness for those in care homes and living with dementia should be addressed through specialist approaches that recognise the complexities involved in these situations.
- Better understanding of how transitions, triggers points and life experiences impact on the quality of life for older people and especially loneliness in challenging situations as a result of their high care needs (and the greater likelihood that they will be caring for others) is
- Availability of independent professional advocacy etc should be improved. Better Information, Advice and Assistance at key points of transition and trigger points – with referral to “talking services” should be prioritised
- The duties placed on Councils under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 to provide early intervention and prevention responses should be implemented effectively to help tackle isolation and loneliness.
- Older People provide by far the largest amount of volunteering in Wales. With changing approaches to retirement there is an untapped potential to increase the numbers involved and in the process tackle loneliness but a national awareness/recruitment programme is needed that also matches people, their skills and volunteering opportunities that are practical.
- Neighbours often help their elderly neighbours and this could be encouraged and extended by the promotion of a national “Look out for your Neighbor” scheme
- We want to see the creation of Age-Friendly Communities across Wales that recognises and celebrates diversity, brings people together to challenge ageism and ensures that all ages can fully participate in community life.
- Further development and mainstreaming of best practice already being used in Wales to combat loneliness and isolation and introduction of innovatory new schemes like the French Postal Service’s “Watch my Parents” and the “Chatty Café” initiative being developed in Caerphilly both of which provide a way forward that could be replicated.
Approved by the COPA Board of Trustees February 2019