Our Loneliness and Isolation Webinar
was the third of our Hidden in Plain Sight Webinars, bringing together local people and voluntary sector experts to share the insights from organisations that are providing vital services across our county.
What we heard
Feelings of loneliness and isolation can take a terrible toll on people’s health – that’s their mental, physical and emotional health. It is linked to depression and leaves people feeling empty, unhappy and unwanted.
There are currently around 232,000 people aged 65 and over living in Surrey.
A third of residents aged 65+ (that’s almost 76,000 older people in the county) live alone.
The large majority of these older people who are living alone (some 47,000 people) are amongst the older age range – being 75 and over.[i]
The wider picture
The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing and a research survey for Age Concern[i] have both found the prevalence of loneliness among older people to be around one third. In Surrey, this equates to over 77,000 older people experiencing loneliness, with 35,000 of those being in the 80+ age group.
The impact of living alone (research conducted prior to the pandemic)
Older adults who live alone are more likely to attend accident and emergency compared to older people who live with others [ii]. They are also more likely to visit their GP – with 21% of those who live alone visiting their GP at least once a month.
Older adults who live alone are also more likely to have multiple (defined as 3 or more) long term conditions.
Older people that live alone are more likely to have mental health conditions.
Lack of social networks have been shown to be just as powerful predictors of mortality as common lifestyle and clinical risks such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Charities such as Woking Age Concern and Farncombe Day Centre have had to adapt their services quickly to continue to support their vulnerable clients. An issue that was already prevalent in Surrey, has become even more challenging to address due to restrictions put in place as a result of the pandemic.
What are some of the barriers these charities have faced due to Government restrictions?
No face to face services where clients can come together to experience vital socialisation with volunteers and other clients, the digital divide between those unable to access or use technology to communicate, many older people that already felt isolated are now even more anxious, with major concerns around access to food, shopping and medical supplies.
Further arising issues
Socialisation is the key issue to address going forwards. It is vital clients can see and interact with others face to face to support their mental health and to gradually build up their confidence going back into the community after shielding longer-term.
What does the future of these services look like, without further urgent support?
Charities providing vital support to older and isolated local people are struggling, due to the increasing demand for their services. They have lost the fundraising opportunities crucial for their financial stability and are unable to get out into the community to raise awareness of these needs.
Both charities share compelling stories on behalf of their clients, about how loneliness and isolation makes them feel, and in one case, how the support of their charity has quite literally, saved a life.
*Warning – contains upsetting content
A recording of our webinar is available.
Thank you to our inspiring speakers
- Annette Clarke, Centre Manager, Farncombe Day Centre
The charity operates for those living in the Farncombe, Binscombe and Ockford Ridge areas of Godalming and is open every weekday throughout the year. The Centre runs multiple services to support the health and well-being of its clients, including Chiropody, Hairdressing, lunches, afternoon entertainment and day trips out, with the aim to enable older people to be independent and allow them to enjoy life in their own homes for as long as possible.
Annette has been Manager of Farncombe Day Centre for seven years. She thoroughly enjoys her role, and is involved with everything that takes place at the Centre in providing a welcoming and stimulating environment in which to meet and promote better health among this community.
- Jackie Crouch, Support Officer, Woking Age Concern
Woking Age Concern is a small, independent charity whose aim is to give free support to older people in and around the borough. The charity’s mission is to promote the wellbeing of older people by offering friendship, information and support, through its services. The charity helps to alleviate feelings of vulnerability and loneliness by arranging regular visits for clients from staff and volunteer ‘friends’.
Jackie joined Woking Age Concern in August 2016. In 2018, Jackie and her colleague Shiela were given the opportunity to oversee the running of the organisation. She likes that no two days are the same and that this role has enabled her to develop new skills when supporting their clients.
- Shiela McAree, Support Officer, Woking Age Concern
Shiela joined Woking Age Concern in January 2016 after having previously volunteered for the organisation.
In September 2018, Sheila joined Jackie in managing the charity. She enjoys being part of a small, dedicated team and feels privileged to work within an organisation supporting older local residents.
[i] English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and ICM Research survey for Agenda for Later Life, Age Concern and Help the Aged, 2009/10 (unpublished) cited by Age
[ii] Dreyer, Steventon, Fisher, & Deeny, 2018 – cited by Age UK in https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/reports-and-publications/later_life_uk_factsheet.pdf
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