Over a third of older people feel lonely

Source : Age UK
Published on 28 September 2012 12:01 AM

Over a third of older people feel lonely, says new research

   Virgin London Marathon 2013 charities unite generations to combat isolation

Over a third (34%) of people aged 65+ in Great Britain feel lonely, according to new research out today from Age UK, the leading UK charity for older people, and pioneering online young people’s charity YouthNet. As joint Virgin London Marathon’s official charities, the two organisations are joining forces to tackle loneliness and isolation across generations.

The charities are calling on runners to take part in next April’s race to raise money for an innovative new service which will see 700 young volunteers help 10,000 isolated older people to get online. Younger people will be given the opportunity to develop their confidence and learn new skills by sharing their digital experience with older people in their local communities.

The research also shows that older people aren’t necessarily lonely for geographical reasons: on average we’re all just 126 steps (ii iii iv v) – or 65 metres – from someone aged 65 or over who is feeling lonely. Similarly, young people are facing huge challenges which can lead to isolation in today’s tough climate such as high unemployment and negative perceptions of youth.

The Internet is a vital tool in tackling isolation and loneliness; over a quarter (28% vi) of people aged 65+ who admitted to feeling lonely said that keeping in contact with family and friends via the web helped relieve feelings of isolation. 70% (vii) of young people aged 16-25 said they use the Internet every day to contact friends and family.

Age UK and YouthNet are aiming to strengthen communities, offering isolated older people the chance to learn how to use the Internet and take advantage of ways to help stay in touch with family and friends such as email and online chat while also reaping the benefits of online services such as online grocery shopping.

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK said: 'Living in isolation and loneliness is a stark reality for too many people in later life, and feelings of loneliness can have a significantly adverse effect on physical and mental well-being.

'This new service is an important step in helping to reduce isolation and loneliness. Bringing older and younger people together in their local communities through Internet training sessions will help open up new worlds both on and offline.'

Emma Thomas, CEO of YouthNet, said: 'This unique project will help tackle isolation across generations, giving young people the opportunity to take their passion and understanding of the digital world and share it with a different generation. There is so much that young people can contribute to society, and helping older people become more internet savvy is a great example of this.

'For 16 years, YouthNet has been creating digital solutions that support young people and connect them with their peers, helping them support one another. We are delighted to be working with Age UK so that young people can help older people to benefit from online connections.'

As official charities for the 2013 Virgin London Marathon, Age UK and YouthNet have 350 guaranteed places and are looking for people with their own place in the race to also join the team. For more information and to find out how you can join ‘Team Run for It’ (Age UK and YouthNet’s Marathon team) and take part in the Virgin London Marathon 2013 please go to www.runforit.org.uk or call 0800 169 87 87 or email info@runforit.org.uk.

If anyone is suffering from loneliness or feeling isolated, help is available from Age UK’s free advice line on 0800 169 6565. Lines are open from 8am to 7pm, seven days a week, where you can also find out how to contact your local Age UK. Alternatively visit www.ageuk.org.uk.

If you’re 16-25 and need support around any issue, you can get anonymous, expert advice online through YouthNet’s guide to life, www.thesite.org.

- Ends -

Media contacts

For more information on Age UK or for interviews please contact Karen Richards on 0203 0331428 or email Karen.Richards@ageuk.org.uk.

For more information on YouthNet call Katy Miller on 0207 2505779 or email katy.miller@youthnet.org 

Notes to editors 

i, v, vi  TNS Capi Omnibus for Age UK (August 2012), 65+ (1,242 GB)

vii TNS Capi Omnibus for Age UK (August 2012), 16-25 (1,303 GB)

ii Office for National Statistics; “Estimated resident population mid-2010 by single year of age and sex,” (2011)

iii Office for National Statistics; “Local authority population statistics, mid-2010,” (2012)

iv Oberg, T; Karsznia, A; Oberg, K (1993); “Basic gait parameters; Reference data for normal subjects, 10-79 years of age,” Journal of Rehabilitation Research Vol. 30 (2): pp, 210-223   


i Older respondents (65+) who are considered to be lonely expressed loneliness to some degree. Those who responded to a question about whether they felt lonely with ‘always,’ ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ were classified in this way. 

ii, iii, iv, v For more detail on how this statistic was calculated please contact Karen Richards (details above).  

Age UK

For media enquiries relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please contact the appropriate national office: Age Scotland on 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru on 029 2043 1562 and Age NI on 028 9024 5729.

Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged, dedicated to improving later life.

We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle. We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI (together the Age UK Family), our local Age UK partners in England and local Age Concerns. We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group (“we”).  Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity’s trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity). 


  • YouthNet is the UK’s first exclusively online charity and was founded by Martyn Lewis in 1995.  It helps young people aged 16 to 25 make informed choices today for a brighter tomorrow by providing them with impartial information and support about anything and everything. YouthNet does this through two online services; the guide to life for 16 to 25 year-olds TheSite.org, the UK’s leading volunteering website Do-it
  • TheSite.org provides essential, straight-talking, anonymous advice to young people aged 16 to 25 about the issues affecting their lives
  • TheSite.org includes an online community with 38,500 registered users plus a series of articles, blogs, podcasts and videos covering anything and everything relevant to 16 to 25 year-olds
  • In 2011, an average of 91,000 16 to 25 year olds in the UK visited TheSite.org each month
  • Run by online charity YouthNet, Do-it (do-it.org.uk) hosts around 1 million volunteering opportunities, searchable by postcode, plus articles and advice on finding the perfect role
  • By the end of Dec 2011, 887,172 volunteers were registered on Do-it and each month more than 55,000 opportunities are applied for through the site. 


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    Caroline Abrahams is Age UK’s Charity Director, and has worked predominantly on children and family issues throughout her career.

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