Community living helps tackle loneliness

Care home provider, Anchor, has highlighted the benefits of community living in the wake of the first summit on loneliness.

The summit, which was hosted jointly by Minister of State for Care Services, Paul Burstow, and the Campaign to End Loneliness, called for a joined up approach to tackle the big problem of loneliness and launched new online guidance for councils to help them tackle loneliness.

Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow said: ‘Loneliness is one of society’s unspoken tragedies. We all have elderly neighbours or relatives who live on their own. Lack of day-to-day contact can have a huge impact on their health.’

‘Research has shown that loneliness can be as harmful to your health as alcohol and tobacco, but we also know that people who have day to day contact live longer and healthier lives.’

He added: ‘The Government is working with the Campaign to End Loneliness to raise awareness about just how important even a simple phone call or visit can be to someone’s health.’

Mario Ambrosi, head of public affairs for Anchor called loneliness ‘a widespread problem among older people’ and said ‘unfortunately there is no simple or universal solution’.

However he added: ‘There are many options for those concerned to consider. As a housing and care provider for older people, Anchor has witnessed the positive effects of community living across its services. Whether people choose to live in retirement villages, sheltered housing schemes or care homes, they are able to retain independence and privacy, but social interaction is also an accessible and typical part of everyday life.’

Laura Ferguson, director of the Campaign to End Loneliness spoke at the summit of loneliness being ‘a very real threat to people’s health’ and said: ‘It has been shown to be worse than obesity and as bad as lifelong smoking, so we are excited about this chance to give health commissioners the information they need to improve services that alleviate and prevent loneliness.’

‘This will ultimately improve the health and wellbeing of older people, and deliver savings to both health and social care in the long term.’

The Campaign to End Loneliness estimates that more than one million people aged over 65 are often or always lonely and one in 10 older people feel trapped in their own home.

Seventeen per cent of older people are in contact with family, friends and neighbours less than once a week and 11 per cent are in contact less than once a month.

Over half (51 per cent) of all people aged 75 and over live alone and half of all older people (about 5m) say the television is their main company.

At the summit, Minister Steve Webb launched new online guidance from the Department for Work and Pensions-funded Ageing Well programme and the Campaign to end Loneliness for councils to combat loneliness and isolation in older age.

Mr Webb said: ‘We must do all we can to help older people remain active and involved in their local communities.’

‘We have provided £1m through our Active at 60 programme to help people most at risk of longer-term social isolation following retirement. And the online guidance launched today will help councils make sure they are not left lonely and isolated.’

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