Elderly people have reported increased loneliness during the coronavirus pandemic — a situation that can be devastating for their health -with Age UK estimating around two million people aged over 75 live alone.
“A review by 10 leading charities has found that a million people over 65 in the UK are likely to remain at risk of chronic loneliness despite the easing of coronavirus restrictions.”
There is a worrying and growing evidence base around the challenge of loneliness in UK. Most people will feel lonely at some point in their lives. It’s a deeply personal experience that – in most cases – will thankfully pass. But for a growing number of people, particularly those in later life and self isolation, loneliness can define their lives and have a significant impact on their wellbeing.
“According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.”
Loneliness in the elderly
Older people may have lost their spouse, and as their closest friends pass away or move to be nearer to their families, they can quickly experience the isolation of loneliness, particularly if they have any health problems that make it hard for them to get out and about. But even those in perfect health may find that loneliness has a profound impact on their day-to-day lives.
Isolation and loneliness are major risk factors for dementia and the coronavirus could complicate this. It’s important that people stay engaged and active.
When you are someone who needs care, it can sometimes feel like you’re very lonely. Whether you are very ill, or just advancing in age, solitude can become almost like a prison. You don’t get to see anyone or do anything, and it can be very demoralising.
But there is also evidence that carers can help to challenge the epidemic of loneliness which we’ve created in society. There is a lot they can offer, and we are going to be looking at the role they played here and now.
Loneliness in figures
- Over 9 million people in the UK – almost a fifth of the population – say they are always or often lonely, but almost two thirds feel uncomfortable admitting to it (British Red Cross and Co-Op, 2016)
- Over half (51%) of all people aged 75 and over live alone (ONS, 2010)
- Two fifths all older people (about 3.9 million) say the television is their main company (Age UK, 2014)
- 63% of adults aged 52 or over who have been widowed, and 51% of the same group who are separated or divorced report, feeling lonely some of the time or often (Beaumont, 2013)
- 59% of adults aged over 52 who report poor health say they feel lonely some of the time or often, compared to 21% who say they are in excellent health (Beaumont, 2013)
- A higher percentage of women than men report feeling lonely some of the time or often (Beaumont, 2013)
- 17% of older people are in contact with family, friends and neighbours less than once a week and 11% are in contact less than once a month (Victor et al, 2003)
Loneliness-Related Health Conditions
There are quite a few health conditions which can be exacerbated by being on your own. It’s been suggested that people who are lonely are more susceptible to strokes and heart attacks. A lot of people think that being on your own is a very dangerous thing. And, to be honest, in a lot of instances they are right.
Being alone with your own head can be very challenging experience. A lot of elderly people have a very jaded mindset, which has been brought on by a very long lifespan. Without company to challenge these negative thoughts, and offer companionship, loneliness can be a very powerful enemy.
The Problem With Residential Care
A lot of people would assume, incorrectly, that being in a residential care home can help to alleviate these feelings of loneliness. However, that’s not strictly true.
Because of how these places are set up and managed, any older person can feel very much like a cog in the system. Just another mouth to feed and another person to look after. There’s no compassion and no consideration, or at least nothing outside of professional courtesy. It’s very easy to imagine that people start to form feelings of detachment and isolation, because there is no one on a constant basis who cares for them.
The Benefits of a Live-In Carer
So now consider for a moment the live-in carer. They’re a different type of companion completely. They focus on giving you the best company that you could ask for, as well as attention and round-the-clock care. It’s really exceptional when you think about it – by the very nature of what they do, they care far more than any residential worker ever would.
A live-in carer might just be the water bucket in the face that loneliness needs. It helps to shake off the melancholy and apathy while reminding you that while you aren’t necessarily at a physical peak anymore, you don’t have to be alone and brooding.
It’s important to remember loneliness can – and does – affect anyone, of any age. Here are ways for older people to connect with others, and feel useful and appreciated again.
All in all, it’s pretty exciting to see an instance where someone manages to hire a live-in carer because we know how much good it can do. This portion of your life isn’t one which has to be lonely and sad. You can enjoy yourself and experience so much, but you should consider a carer. They can help to combat the epidemic of loneliness in a big way.
Combatting loneliness was a cause close to our heart and one that Ashridge Home Care continues to support. Anyone can be lonely but it is important to remember you are not alone. This Loneliness Awareness Week 2021 reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to for a while. A simple hello could brighten someone’s day.