Shelagh Marshall. Chair of Future Years
Loneliness and Isolation – The journey so far
Loneliness is subjective, isolation is fact, some older people like to be alone and we call that solitude. The definition of loneliness may be described as the gap between the amount of social contact individuals would love to have and the actual amount they do have, but there are other reasons.
There are thousands of people living on their own and many of them are extremely lonely. This is nothing new, but it has been highlighted in more recent years, as our lifestyles have changed rapidly for young people, adults and older people.
The projected longevity for 60-year olds remains high and every day many more people become lonely as bereavement strikes and couples separate or emigrate to far distant continents. The Campaign to End Loneliness was launched seven years ago and the aim in the first few years was to raise awareness and identify those in the community at risk. Communities have been encouraged to develop social activities for older people to enable them to stay connected within their own communities. At the same time, we began evaluating and gathering evidence of the detrimental effects on people’s health which loneliness can bring.
As Chair of the Loneliness and Isolation Working Group I am totally committed to The Campaign to End Loneliness: officially an ambassador for the Campaign, I have taken workshops to raise awareness and discussed what kind of projects have worked well. Encouraging those in the community to help develop social activities for those around them. In some areas there is a very high number of older people as a percentage of the population. Many in their final years of life may become disabled through acquiring a long-term illness and find themselves housebound. It is this group in particular which we need to recognise, identify and act.
Members of the Working Group are all involved in providing services aimed at ending or reducing loneliness. The quarterly meetings allow networking and sharing opinions on what works when a service is being developed, and members also contact each other outside the meetings. We have excellent speakers at each meeting who talk about their work reducing Loneliness and other speakers who keep us up to date with research findings.
I have watched the growing awareness and actions taken by the NHS to offer a social prescription to those who show signs of the effects of loneliness. Following my own work at the grassroots I am beginning to conclude that Befriending is one of the best services to end Loneliness.
Why not come to one of our meetings and hear first-hand how others are transforming lives. Read what members have said about our meetings.
‘I think the value of the current set up for Loneliness and Isolation allows us to be proactive rather than not being able to include new issues which we may wish to become involved in’
‘Loneliness and Isolation is our theme, so we already have one. We can in addition look at various good practices and have a variety of topics in a random fashion similar to current practice’
‘I have only attended 3 meetings of the AAA working group on Loneliness to date, but at each one I have made at least one useful contact whom I have then met outside of the meeting. Two of these contacts are hopefully going to develop into some form of collaborative work in the future’
‘The AAA Working group on Loneliness is working well for me in its current form’
‘The AAA Loneliness and Isolation Working Group provides a great opportunity for people working across different sectors to discuss the issues around loneliness and isolation and to explore the solutions’
‘As the representative of a small organisation with national coverage I welcome the chance to meet others in the sector who often have greater experience. It is a chance to exchange news, share knowledge and explore ideas’