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2 in 3 Britons want to do more to help older people but don’t know how


Over five million people are affected by loneliness today, with more than one million saying they are often or always lonely, and this is predicted to increase by 40 per cent by 2030. Loneliness can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and is as much of a health risk as smoking.

A survey by Friends of the Elderly revealed that over one in five people say they have never done anything for an older neighbour or member of the community. What’s more, while almost two thirds of respondents (62 per cent) feel they could do more to support older people, many say they simply don’t have the time (34 per cent) or don’t know how (31 per cent).

Loneliness has a devastating impact on the lives of older people and it’s on the rise. Over five million older people in the UK are affected by loneliness, more than one million say they are often lonely, and this number is predicted to increase 40 per cent by 2030.

Here are the facts

  • 1 in 3 older people are affected by loneliness.
  • 1.2 million older people say they often feel lonely, 1 in 10 of the entire older population.
  • Half of all older people in the UK (that’s 5 million) consider TV to be their main form of company.
  • Over half a million older people leave their house once a week or less.
  • Nearly half of all people aged 75 and over live alone.
  • A shocking 370,000 over 75s spend ‘zero hours’ with other people on a typical day.
  • A saddening 450,000 older people in the UK spent last Christmas alone.
  • 1 in 4 older people don’t have a best friend.
  • 60 older people a week die alone.
  • As the UK population is living longer, the number of people aged 80 years and older is projected to almost double by 2030.
  • The overall increase of older people reporting loneliness by 2030 will be around 40%.
  • Technology has the potential to make a positive impact on loneliness, but by 2030, 10% of older people will still not have a mobile phone or use the internet.

What you can do

Being a friend to an older person is really easy. It can be as simple as having a chat over the garden fence, or at a bus stop, or in a park. You might be the only person they speak to that day. Your simple act of kindness really can make a difference – to them, and to you.

For older people who are feeling lonely and young people alike, there is a lot of research that suggests that intergenerational friendships can be very beneficial.

Yet in the UK these friendships aren’t very common – only 46% of people aged 16-24 say they talk to their neighbours, compared to 87% of those aged 65-74.

‘A friendly community benefits everyone and makes a place much nicer to live and work in for people of all ages,’ explained Charity Director of Age UK, Caroline Abrahams.

‘The simple act of stopping for a quick chat can brighten up an older person’s day, particularly if that’s the only conversation they’re likely to have, so please don’t be shy, smile and say hello and chances are you’ll both feel better for it.’

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