Half a million elderly men are suffering from loneliness as well as long term health conditions, according to new Age UK research. That is almost a third of older men. Over the coming years, there will be a 65% rise in older men living alone therefore a large increase in loneliness.
As a provider of personal alarms to the elderly, Careline take this issue very seriously and there are many ways that we can all help to aid the loneliness epidemic.
Increasing amounts of loneliness
Male lifespans are beginning to catch up with female lifespans due to a decline in smoking, drinking and declining levels of dangerous occupations and industrial jobs. This means that many elderly men are living alone. A growing amount of divorce is another contributing factor to elderly men living alone. These men are also more likely to develop long term illnesses.
The Campaign to End Loneliness group reported that in a recent survey ‘59% of adults aged over 52 who report poor health say they feel lonely some of the time or often’. There are many factors behind the rising numbers of lonely elderly people including a change in family units over the years. Families are now more geographically scattered and live more hectic lives so have less time for elderly relatives.
The impact of loneliness on elderly health
Loneliness itself can be debilitating and hard to cope with but can also cause many other health problems. Research has shown that social isolation can be as bad for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The Campaign to End Loneliness group have outlined the many ways that loneliness impacts on our physical and mental health and well-being.
Loneliness increases the risk of high blood pressure. It also increases the risk of developing a disability. In terms of mental health, research has shown that the lonely have a 64% increased chance of developing dementia and are more prone to depression. Loneliness can also be predictive of suicide in older people.
Not only are elderly people suffering but the problem of elderly loneliness is impacting on the health service too. Those that are socially isolated are more likely to visit their GP regularly, have higher use of medication and use A&E services more frequently.
How can you help improve elderly loneliness?
Whilst solving the problem of elderly loneliness will depend on individual situations, there are many things that we can generally do in society to help.
If you have an older person in your family:
If you can, make an effort to see elderly relatives regularly. Even giving them a call to catch up could mean the world to them.
Get older family members involved in technology. Set them up with a smart phone or iPad and take the time to Skype with them every week or so. Technology can be a great way of keeping older people connected with the outside world with websites like Facebook to keep in touch with old friends. New technology can seem alien to a lot of people, so be prepared to take some time to teach your family members how to use their devices – they will certainly appreciate it!
As a member of society:
There’s always something more we can do as individuals in society. Many charities and organisations ask for volunteers to join a befriending service. You can give up as little as 30 minutes a week of your time to keep someone company either over the phone or in person.
It’s also important to simply be more conscious of the elderly people around us. If you have an elderly neighbour, try and get to know them so that you can have a chat if you see each other out and about. It often makes elderly people feel safer knowing that they can rely on their neighbours.
Remember that if you are suffering from loneliness, or know someone who is, help is available. If you can’t reach out to a loved one, you can call The Silver Line for advice or a chat on 0800 470 80 90. The Samaritans are also available 24/7 on 116 123.