Loneliness and Isolation in the Elderly

Elderly isolation can be caused by many different  factors.  Though one recent report did suggest the most horrendous reason: a poorly placed zebra crossing!

The crossing in question is next to the local pub, the Brewery Tap in Brentwood. Locals complain that it’s a fast road and that motorists don’t stop which means they are terrified to use the crossing.

The need or temptation to cross the road is the local church and its many clubs that are often the social focus of many of the local pensioners’ social lives. One resident is campaigning to get something done but so far the local council are moving slowly.

Statistics aren’t showing this as a particularly dangerous spot! But they are investigating ways to make the crossing more visible for motorists.

The signs are there


Meanwhile an organisation, the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA), set up in 2002 to study aging reported finding that 1 in 6 people over 50 felt ‘socially isolated’.

ELSA carries out bi-annual reports using 10,000 volunteers that they follow for a number of years to identify factors about aging. This latest study was their fifth report. Measurements used include understanding ‘the economic, social, psychological and health concerns of an ageing society’. 

The Daily Mail ran the report in October last year which identified this sad fact of the many lonely aging people out there, many of them living alone. Not surprisingly ELSA found that those with least income and funds were the loneliest – we all know how a lack of funding can stop our socialising. Wealthier subjects were much less likely to feel socially isolated to the tune of 59%.

ELSA believe that studies of the group nine years previously in 2002/3 found that those who enjoyed life most then were more likely to be socially active in the fifth study (2010/1). They also believe that psychological well-being measures taken in Wave 2 (2004/5) can predict the future health of participants. For instance ‘who would go on to suffer disability, reduced walking speed, impaired self-rated health and those likely to develop coronary heart disease in the last calculations’.

It seems measuring the psychological well-being on younger delegates is the indicator they are looking at as a pointer for poorer health later in life. If this is true, it could be one part of the explanation for being more socially isolated. Poor mobility or not feeling at your best are possible causes.

ELSA identify that improved access to public and private transport could have a big impact on solving the isolation problem. In view of increasing spending cuts, watch this space!

The Campaign to End Loneliness

Here’s a video about Friends of the Elderly a charity that visit the elderly at home.

It’s a shocking statistic that loneliness can have the same effect on your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day! That’s according to the Campaign to End Loneliness which is run by a number of different organisations working together. They are working with several Health & Wellbeing Boards across the country to tackle this problem.

Do you know someone who is lonely or can’t get out? Why not invite them to something you’re going to or pop round to see them regularly?  By checking up on a neighbour you will be more likely to see if their health and mobility is declining and might need assistance from something like a lift for their stairs.