The problem of loneliness amongst our senior citizens have reached epic proportions and is a more serious problem than simply an unfortunate social circumstance.
Research shows that loneliness and isolation are damaging our health. In fact, a lack of social connections is as comparable a risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and worse than even obesity or lack of physical activity – and the problem is continuing to grow.
THESE ARE THE LATEST PUBLISHED FIGURES AVAILABLE:
Over 50% of all people aged 75 and over live alone.
Loneliness increases the likelihood of mortality by as much as 26%.
17% of elderly people are in contact with their family, friends and neighbours less than once a week, and 11% less than once a month.
40% of all older people claim the television is their main source of contact with the outside world.
63% of adults aged 52 and over who have been widowed, and a further 51% of those who are separated or divorced, report feeling lonely either some or nearly all of the time.
59% of adults aged 52 and over who report feeling unwell say they feel lonely some of the time or very often, compared to 21% who say they are in excellent health.
The famous ‘British upper lip’ seems to prevent us, as a nation, from expressing our feelings and emotions.
Though a higher percentage of women than men admit to feeling lonely, this is probably more because women are better at and more open about discussing their feelings.
People often ask about what they can do to help, but ‘the elderly’ is not just one homogenous group of people. It should be remembered that everyone within this age group is an individual and there is no one ‘fix-all’ solution.
If you feel that you can help someone, start by thinking of them as an individual. Consider their needs and interests and what type of situation they are facing – isolation or loneliness.
Everyone has different needs, and treating each person as an individual allows them more self-respect and dignity.
THE UK IS THE 6TH LARGEST ECONOMY IN THE WORLD – AND YET WE STILL DISREGARD THE NEEDS OF OUR OLD FOLK
Being connected to others is a fundamental human need; we are social creatures, and without social contact we tend to fall into depression and despair.
How often do we see an older person queuing at a post office or supermarket when there is nothing they require? It’s just a way of trying to achieve some form of social contact.
And it’s not just the elderly that suffer. A recent report shows that infants in custodial care who lack human contact fail to thrive. Solitary confinement has been used as a method of torture for hundreds of years but we, albeit often unwittingly, still allow it to happen.