The Power of Connection
Last year, as part of Loneliness Awareness Week, we shared with you some key statistics and facts about loneliness and its impact over the past few years, following the pandemic. Brought to you by Marmalade Trust, Loneliness Awareness Week is dedicated to raising awareness of loneliness and getting people talking about it, across the UK and beyond.
Figures from Age UK show within the next decade, 2 million people aged 50 and over in England are projected to be lonely if efforts to tackle loneliness are not made. In a 'Later Life Factsheet' report published by Age UK, it was discovered that;
- 9% of older people report that they feel cut off from society (The Campaign to End Loneliness, 2013),
- three out of four GPs across the UK say they see between 1 and 5 people a day who have come in mainly because they are lonely (The Campaign to End Loneliness, 2013),
- and every £1 invested in tackling loneliness can save £3 in health costs (Mcdaid, Bauer, & Park, 2017).
At Abbeyfield, in line with our founder's mission to alleviate loneliness in older people, we recognise the differences between loneliness and isolation. It is possible to be surrounded by people and yet feel lonely, just as it is possible to be isolated, but not feel alone.
So, what actions can we take to combat loneliness? By forging meaningful connections with those around us, particularly paying close attention to our older friends, relatives, and neighbours, we can make a significant difference. In this blog, we have shared several ways in which you can provide support to older individuals who may be facing loneliness within your community.
Forge a connection
It's the little everyday moments that can make a big difference. Here are a few ways you could forge a new connection.
Helping your older neighbours with running errands could also lead to meaningful connections. You could offer to do their shopping, help them get set-up on a digital device so that they can video call loved ones, offer to help them water their plants or walk their dog, these simple acts of kindness could mean the world to someone who may be feeling isolated.
Join a retirement community
Being part of a retirement community, such as Abbeyfield, combats loneliness in itself. By moving into a retirement home you’ll be able to meet like-minded people who share your interests and be part of a family.
Make new friends and have more time to socialise and pursue new hobbies and activities without having to worry about taking care of a house. You’ll find people who have similar interests, or even those with different hobbies which you can join in with. A chance to learn something new.
At our homes we like to come together at meal times to share stories, enjoy good food and have great conversations. We have many activities in our homes from day trips to the beach, cheese and wine nights to getting together to watch a film, do some yoga or just having a chat over a cup of tea; and at the end of the day there’s always someone there.
If you're thinking of making the move, it's time to find a home near you, and enquire today.
"A scheme to bring lonely people together, in an ordinary house, in an ordinary street, getting support and creating an atmosphere of companionship from neighbours and family; returning to the community rather than moving away from it." — Abbeyfield Founder, Richard Carr-Gomm
Music, friendship and pets
Music, friendship, and pets can also play a role in combating loneliness and providing a sense of connection and well-being.
Music evokes memories, helps overcome symptoms of anxiety, depression and loneliness, regardless of age, but for older people, music has proven particularly beneficial. Music has the power to uplift spirits, evoke emotions, and create a sense of belonging. It can serve as a source of comfort and solace for individuals experiencing loneliness. Listening to favourite songs or engaging in musical activities, such as singing or playing an instrument, can provide a meaningful escape and stimulate positive feelings. Music can also bring people together, whether through attending concerts, joining choirs or music groups, or participating in music therapy programs designed to enhance social interaction and emotional well-being.
Building and nurturing meaningful friendships is an essential aspect of combating loneliness. Friends provide companionship, support, and understanding, helping to alleviate feelings of isolation. Engaging in social activities and hobbies with friends, such as going for walks, sharing meals, participating in group exercises, or joining clubs and interest-based communities, can promote social connections and create a sense of belonging. Regular communication and spending quality time with friends can significantly improve emotional well-being and reduce feelings of loneliness. Take a look at some of the benefits of friendships in older people and how to maintain them.
Pets, such as a dog, also combat loneliness, amongst other incredible benefits. Dogs, cats, or even smaller animals like birds or rabbits, can be wonderful companions for older people. Pets offer unconditional love, companionship, and a sense of purpose. Taking care of a pet provides a routine, responsibility, and a reason to engage in daily activities. Pets can also serve as a catalyst for social interaction, as they can be great conversation starters and facilitate connections with other pet owners or individuals in the community. The presence of a pet can reduce stress, provide comfort, and contribute to improved mental and emotional well-being.
If you're feeling lonely, know you're not alone...
There are resources available that are here to help. We've listed a few below, but, if things become too much, we urge you to seek support from your GP.
- Useful contacts — These organisations offer fantastic advice and support for helping to overcome loneliness in later life.
- Age UK telephone friendship — If you or someone you know is missing the joy of regular conversation, Age UK and their partner charity The Silver Line can help.
- Marmalade Trust — Loneliness charity encouraging conversation and connection.