Image from: Alief Workshop
You owe it to yourself to keep reading if you have ever felt lonely.
Loneliness in the elderly is something that must really be taken seriously. The older generation are some of the best people you’ll meet. They have stories that you might not even believe, they have lived through times that we can only imagine. Almost everyone knows someone elderly they can give a bit of time to, whether that’s your grandparents, relatives or someone you just walk past in your day today.
So, when we talk about loneliness, what are we talking about? Loneliness can be subjective, for example, I am perfectly happy with my own company, but for others a weekend on your own can make them feel lonely. You might prefer to spend your time on your own. Perhaps the perfect afternoon for you is spending time alone, with some music and a good book. For someone else, the perfect day could be spending time with as many of your friends and family as possible. So, how do we define what loneliness is?
Madeleine Elliott from Gov.uk has set out separate definitions of loneliness:
- Emotional loneliness is felt when someone misses the companionship of one particular person; often a spouse, sibling or best friend
- Social loneliness is experienced when we lack a wider social network or group of friends
- Loneliness or isolation. One can be lonely in a crowded room but one is not then socially isolated. Loneliness is linked to social isolation but it is not the same thing.
Often when you’re on your way to work, or perhaps when you’re doing your errands on a Saturday, you will brush past so many older people. When I wait for the bus I always bump into an older lady who wants to chat, or an older gent who wants to give me some advice on which bus to get or, to make sure I’m careful when I walk alone. Although many people from my generation would avoid this conversation or avoid the situation overall, I always try and give a little of my time and listen to what they have to say. Even if this means that I listen to the same story on a regular basis, or hear about something that makes me feel uncomfortable, I know after a conversation that person will more than likely be going home to an empty house. Over half of all people aged 75 and over live alone (ONS, 2010).
So how else can you help? I have a little puppy called Belle, and once a week I take her to a care home. I go, make conversation with the folks in the home, Belle jumps around, says hello to everyone for an hour or so and the nurses always tell me that they look forward to it all week long. It’s only one hour a week for me, but for them, it’s someone new to talk to, a chance to feel like they can escape the same routine and to talk to someone who is happy to listen. You may be able to give a little time to a care home, you might be lucky enough to live near your grandparents and be able to go around a little more often and chat over a cup of tea. Some of us aren’t as lucky to have their extended family close, or even here anymore. Russel Howard captures this sentiment perfectly in the video below that also shows an amazing charity that highlights another way that you could give a little time and get a lot of happiness.
Carrying on from what Russel Howard has said, my great-grandmother used to always tell me the same story about how she was not good at maths and her school teacher would always just let her draw in the back of the class. I think she remembers this story because she knew I was studying maths at school and then for A-levels and it was her way of connecting with me. She did become an artist, and some of her art sits proudly on the walls of my home, and I would listen so closely if she were here to tell me that she was bad at maths again.
Loneliness in the elderly is something that is definitely manageable if the younger generation made a commitment change. You might be reading this and thinking, I want to help but I have my own life to lead or I have my own family to take care of. That is absolutely fine of course, and it’s true. Life sweeps by and it’s often difficult to find time to do anything more than what you have to.
Here are some stats to frame what we have been talking about it a more real way:
- 6 – 13% of older people say they feel very or always lonely
- 6% of older people leave the house once a week or less •
- 17% of older people are in contact with friends and family or neighbours less than once a week, and;
- 11% are in contact less than once a month
- Almost 5 million older people say that the television is their main form of company
“Robust scientific research shows that loneliness and the impact on health can be compared to smoking and obesity. It is therefore incumbent upon us all to address the issue.” Madeleine Elliott – gov.uk
This statement sits heavily upon our joint social consciousness, which is why we have seen a huge increase in the number of charities that specialise in ending this national issue. Just to mention a few:
- Age UK
- Campaign to end loneliness
- Contact the elderly
- British Red Cross
- The Marmalade Trust
- South London Cares
Mind is a mental health charity that takes loneliness very seriously for people of any age. This charity does some really amazing work and offers support and respect to all those suffering from a mental health issue. Click the image to go to their page dedicated to loneliness to see the amazing work that they have been doing.
A campaign to end loneliness in another charity that is worth focusing on. They have a heavy focus on the political weapons they can use to make the action come from the government down. This is a really intelligent and innovative way of breaking this particular issue. If this campaign is successful, then it could mean that laws and policies are put int place to help eradicate this issue for generations to come.
You can click on any of the charities and it will take you to their page. If you have the time, offer to volunteer. If you don’t maybe offer a couple quid to help their mission along. We have not been sponsored to say this, or encourage you towards helping the elderly. It is simply something we as a company truly believe in.
Ergonomics is extremely important to Urgos; which means we are committed to making life as easy and comfortable as possible. Urgos have made sure that our design has several features that make sure that the older generation who find themselves living alone are able to use their appliances safely and without having to feel alone or helpless. Most importantly, it’s easy for them to be able to continue their normal life and be able to have a cup of tea with their family, who are definitely going to visit more now they’ve read this article…
Here are some pictures of our design. Please think about your family when they are sitting at home alone, chat to your neighbour, help that lady with her shopping at the bus stop. These are not things that are difficult, but they can make the world of difference, and even though it may sound dramatic, it can save people’s lives. If people feel less lonely, they are likely to be happier, healthier and more active, which means their quality of life will be greatly improved and they will probably live longer than they would have before.