We humans are social creatures, forever wanting to connect with others to be part of a group and society. However, this is not always possible. In our lives, we all experience times where we are physically alone. In these times, we can yearn to talk and spend time with others. These times of isolation are lonely and uncomfortable. Yet for most of us, these times are, thankfully, fleeting. Though, for some, this social isolation is not short term. For them, it has become a routine. A prolonged period of little social contact with the outside world. This sustained isolation is damaging to both their physical and mental wellbeing. This is social isolation, a problem that because of its nature can go undetected in society.
Social Isolation vs. Loneliness
What is social isolation and how is it different from loneliness?
Loneliness in Age UK’s words is a feeling. It is the desired level of contact with others. It refers to the quality of a person’s relationships with others. You can be lonely in a crowd of people. This would occur if you are not connecting or having meaningful interactions with the surrounding people.
In contrast, social isolation is measured by how many people you see or talk to. It is about quantity, not quality. Simply put, isolation is not seeing many people. Being isolated for a long time can then cause people to feel lonely.
It is about quantity, not the quality of contacts. This means that you just don’t see many, if any, people for long periods of time. Going long periods without seeing others can then make you feel lonely, as you have no one to socialise with.
Social isolation and Health
Long periods of social isolation are not good for people’s health. Isolation can increase people’s risk of death. Some research has found that isolation is just as dangerous as smoking, obesity and a lack of exercise. One study found that loneliness increased the chance of death by 26%.
Research has found that social isolation can negatively affect both mental and physical health. Weakened immune systems, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity are some problems. Research also links mental health problems such as anxiety. Finally, degenerative mental problems such as cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease can occur. Thus, not only do isolated people face shorter life spans. They can also suffer degenerative health problems that limit their enjoyment of life.
Who is most affected by social isolation?
Older adults are most at risk of social isolation or loneliness. In 2010, over half of all adults (51%) aged 75 or over lived alone. In 2013, 63% of adults aged 52 or over have been widowed. Finally, two-fifths of all older people (3.9 million) reported that television was their main company.
Older people become isolated for several reasons. They can become widows and lose friends. Their families can move away. Age can also cause mobility issues. It is worse if their local transport is inaccessible.
How can social isolation be tackled?
Tackling isolation is possible. To achieve it, people need to see others. If this happens, then the negative effects of isolation can be countered.
Age UK found that older people enjoyed more social contact. It benefited them in several ways. They could be more independent in their choices. They also enjoyed greater respect and esteem. They could also maintain friendships better as well as build new ones. This saw them have an increased sense of purpose and a longer life.
Yet while in theory, it is easy, in practice it is not. In today’s busy world, we can forget isolated people. Age UK found that current provisions to tackle isolation and loneliness were inadequate. Yet, their research also stated what is effective. A few of them are:
- practical, flexible and low-level help
- individually tailored solutions
- and flexible transport
Here at Westway CT, you can find these solutions through many of our services.
How Westway CT helps tackle it
As a community transport service, we help connect people to places. Some people can’t use public or private transport. This can be because of financial barriers, mobility problems, or other factors.
This is where we help. We help people access different opportunities and places. We do this in two main ways. First, we work with other organisations like Open Age. Second, we provide our own services to help people escape isolation. Have a look at the services we provide below.
While there is the ever-growing market of home delivery from supermarkets ranging from Ocado to Asda. Our shopper service, allows you or your loved ones to find the real deals in their weekly shop.
From just £1.50, for each leg of the shopper service, you or your loved ones can inspect the quality of the items before they buy. Not only that, they can meet others, make new friends, and share a coffee after their shopping is done. Our also drivers carry your or your loved one’s bags to their front door to make everyone’s lives that bit easier.
Fancy a trip to Holland Park but struggle to get around? No worries, our mobility scooters can help. With a scooter based at Holland Park, you can enjoy the delights of the park.
Want to explore hit shops and restaurants around Kensington and Chelsea? We have two scooters at our office available to help you get around, contact us here for more information.
Sometimes you want to meet your friends there or just go with a few friends, and a minibus isn’t needed. In these cases, our volunteer cars can help. With competitive prices, our volunteers can take you to and from your destination in comfort.
Help us Tackle Social Isolation
Our volunteer car service often helps many isolated people get out and about. It is a vital service for many users. We are always looking for volunteer drivers to help.
If you have a driver’s license and some spare time each week, you can help us tackle social isolation. So why not sign up to volunteer today?
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