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Combating elderly loneliness

Prior to COVID-19, over a million of odler people in the UK said that they often or always feel lonely.  Chronic loneliness is not only harmful for your mental health, but it hurts health as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (e.g. it negatively impacts cardiovascular health, increases a likelihood of cancer and Alzheimer's disease). Moreover, there is a link between loneliness and suicide in seniors. Older people may be lonely due to their health problems and disability, due to being widowed or living alone, and now due to COVID-19 pandemic. Research shows that loneliness can be reduced/eliminated and lifespan is increased if a person is helped to estabish social connections. 

How did the UK address loneliness previously? They organised social activities, lunch clubs and day centres. The problem with them is that they require mobility, they are not in all courners of our contry, and, most importantly, not a viable option during the pandemic. There are also befriending services available such as "Call in Time" and "Silverline" which offer weekly calls to seniors. 

I worked as a carer previously and I saw how lonely and depressed people can be. A weekly call is not enough for them to feel better. I think that what we need is a database of older people who are willing to find friends. For example, a GP may refer them to this service as they refer people to psychological services. Alternatively, older people can refer themselves. There, they will be find potential friends by interests (e.g. gardening), personality (e.g. extrovert), age, and so on. I think that it would be great if this platform would be simple and accessible for people (e.g. with visual impairment/blindness), and that it would allow both chatting and video calls 1-to-1 or group calls. To protect people, there should be assigned professionals who prevent potential scams. The platform can be adapted for phones, tablets and computers. This way, a person can connect with others when they want, and they can develop true and close friendships.

What do you think about my idea? Do you have any other suggestions?

 

The information is obtained from Age UK "Evidence Review: Loneliness in Later Life" (2015)

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Esther Hui 11 months ago

Status labels added: Conversation starter, Useful insight

Reply 0

Bonolo Mod 11 months ago

Technology can often be challenging to use which results in added stress and increased loneliness. What should be done to safely foster in-person interactions?

Reply 1

Nattawan Utoomprurkporn 11 months ago

Many older adult research centres in the US (and also in the UK) now start to adopt this "Grandpad" technology during COVID. They dropped off the device at the older adult homes. The device is an easy to use tablet designed for older adults. They plugged it to the power supply and the healthcare professionals/their families can directly VDO call them.
This really overcome the barrier of using email/creating zoom account/navigating different buttons in tablet/PC computer.
All older adults can enjoy the communication with friends and family again :)

Reply 1

Miroslava Katsur 11 months ago

This sounds amazing! I wonder whether this technology can be adapted so that older people can connect with other old people in order to find a friend or group of friends. Some older people don't have family or they cannot often in touch with them, so having a few friends could be amazing - you'd be always busy talking, if you want :)

Reply 0

Georgie Cade 9 months ago

Status labels removed: Conversation starter, Useful insight

Reply 0