5 ways to help older people with loneliness

Woman wearing eyeglasses

Recently the Government has ordered people to stay home and only leave home for essential travel. This has put the nation into a state of social isolation. For many of us, this is an unfamiliar setting. Though the younger and more tech-savvy of us are better equipped to deal with this unnatural social isolation and loneliness we are now facing.
Yet, for many older people, this government-imposed social isolation will be worse for them. Many older people already face a degree of social isolation. Across the nation, 51% of adults aged 75 or over live alone. To make the situation worse, this group of people are the most at-risk age group in the current Covid-19 Pandemic. This group has been advised to stay home and limit social contact with others.

We do not disagree with this advice, this means that this group is now even more at risk of being socially isolated and the negative consequences that come with it.

What is social isolation?

As discussed in a previous post, social isolation is different from loneliness. Social isolation is the number of times that you see or interact with people. While loneliness is based on feeling. You can be lonely when surrounded by people. social isolation can lead to people feeling lonely.

Health risks of loneliness:

The campaign to end loneliness states several health risks of loneliness.

  •  Loneliness and/or social isolation are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Holt-Lunstad,2010)
  • Loneliness is worse for you than obesity (Holt-Lunstad, 2010)
  • Lonely people are more likely to suffer from dementia, heart disease and depression. (Valtorta et al, 2016) (James et al, 2011) (Cacioppo et al, 2006)
  • Loneliness is likely to increase your risk of death by 29% (Holt-Lunstad, 2015)

Loneliness is thus a huge danger for older people. Now more than ever in this period of national social isolation must we come together and help older people be isolated. Here are 6 ways that you can help older people to avoid loneliness.

1) Combat loneliness through online Lessons

Age UK Kensington and Chelsea is a great example of how to combat the loneliness of older people in these bleak times. In normal times they put on classes for older people to attend so that they can interact and socialise. The charity has adapted these events to the current circumstances. They have set up an online events schedule that older people can access via zoom. Their website has also set out clear instructions on how to set zoom up to help older people access these events. The classes include things like French for beginners, a knitting club as well as ‘Come Dine With Me’ events.

2) Phone calls

It may seem like a straightforward answer to the current situation. Though phone calls are a great way to help combat older people’s loneliness. In addition, using a phone is probably a lot more familiar to many older people and less daunting. Don’t think you have enough time to give an older person you know a call. Luckily there are several dedicated helplines for older people to call to ask for help or just have a chat.

Independent age, providing befriending services: 0800 319 6789

Royal Voluntary Service for help, advice and support: 0845 608 0122

Call The Silver Line for information, advice or just for a chat, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week 0800 470 80 90

Visit Friends of the Elderly for year-round support or call 0330 332 1110.

Age UK, support and advice for older people, advice line: 0800 169 6565

Reengage, tackling loneliness and social isolation among older people: 0800 716543

3) Video Chats:

Similar to number one. Though a one to one video chat with family or friends can really break down the sense of loneliness. There are also plenty of easy to use options to use. From Skype and Zoom for the desktop to WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger for mobile phones. There are many options nowadays that allow you or older people to video call others. They are also easier more intuitive to use than ever.

4) #ViralKindness Cards

An idea that has spread across the nation. There have been several versions of contact cards that can be filled in and posted through neighbour’s letterboxes. The cards are designed to allow neighbours to help older people or other vulnerable groups with tasks that they are advised against doing at present. They also offer an option for a friendly phone call. These cards are a lovely way to help breakdown the barriers of social isolation and subsequent loneliness in these times.

#viralkindess card

These cards and idea are a brilliant way to help older people in these difficult times, and we hope many people sign up to the idea.

5) You’ve got Mail

Similar to #viralkindness but something that we are all more familiar with. Writing a letter to an older person is a great way to help them. Letters are great as they are more personal and therefore benefit the receiver more. Plus, posting through the letterbox respects the idea of social distancing and keeps us all safe. The letter can also help you break the ice with your neighbour, especially if you don’t know each other well. You can tell them some simple facts and/or interests you have in life to make them feel a bit more at ease. Further, you can give them your number so that they can call you if need help or want a chat. This really could be a nice way to help older people not feel forgotten.


How Westway CT is helping older people in this time of social isolation

While most of our staff are working remotely, as a minibus charity it isn’t possible for us to work remotely completely. We are still running our shopper service to help older people get to the shops to pick up goods (this is under constant review). Additionally, our volunteer cars are still available to take people for essential trips like visiting the hospital for important appointments.

Further to these essential trips, we have been also working with Age UK and KCSC to deliver food parcels to vulnerable older people who are having to self-isolate completely. You can out more details about this work here.

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