Advice & Guidance

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Tackling loneliness and isolation

Older people are vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness and the effects can be devastating.

Poor health and deteriorating hearing, sight, speech, mobility or memory can all make it difficult to meet others, maintain relationships or engage in activities outside the home leading to isolation and loneliness.

Although closely related, isolation and loneliness are not the same thing. Isolation is about the lack of social relationships and contact whereas loneliness is the negative emotional response to the gap between the social contacts we have and those which we would like to have.

Loneliness and isolation are linked to a number of emotional and physical health problem with some studies suggesting it can be as detrimental as smoking and worse than obesity. A recent evidence review from Brunel University found links between. social isolation and specific blood chemicals which are linked to inflammation in the body.

What can I do?

It can be heartbreaking to see an ageing parent become increasingly isolated. You can't solve all of their problems but there is plenty you can do.

Maintaining regular and frequent contact is vital – regular phone or face time calls can make a huge difference when you can’t visit in person.

Explore whether any specialist products or services could help to overcome any specific disability such as hearing or visual impairment – see our neighbourhood directory for contact details.

If appropriate, helping your parent to develop their digital skills could open up a new world of online community contact.

You could consider passing on the number for The Silver Line – it is a free confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people, open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. DIAL 0800 4 70 80 90
Read more about the Silver Line.

Explore the options which are available your parent’s local community – local government and charities are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of isolation in older people and there is a growing range of neighbourhood initiatives including befriending schemes.

Beware of scams or exploitation. An isolated or lonely elderly person may be vulnerable to the empty charm of those with criminal or uncharitable intentions.

Falling, or fear of falling, can have a major impact on mental health in older people. Falls can cause older people to lose confidence in going about their day to day activities leading to depression, isolation or loss of independence.

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September 2020

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