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Supermarkets a social lifeline for millions of older people

Published on 20 January 2017 12:01 AM

  • New research reveals just how important retailers are to the social lives of older people
  • Age UK demands urgent action to be taken to combat chronic loneliness facing millions in later life
  • Local services and businesses can play a key part in action on the ground

Why are supermarkets so important?

Going to the supermarket gives nearly 2.5 million older people a reason to get out of the house.

Almost 600,000 say they would have no one to talk to if they didn't go, according to new figures for Age UK. Over a million over 60s visit a supermarket every day and a further 5.3 million go at least 2-3 times per week.

The research highlights just how important retailers are for many older people who may otherwise stay at home feeling lonely.

What causes loneliness

Life events such as bereavement, ill health and complex long term conditions such as diabetes and arthritis - all more common in later life - can give rise to feelings of loneliness.

Age UK recently revealed that 1.2 million older people in England chronically lonely, having experienced loneliness for many years. With more people living longer lives, this figure is set to increase unless urgent action is taken to support older people.

Serious health consequences

If left unaddressed, loneliness can cause long term misery. It can also have serious health consequences, contributing to the development of medical conditions such as heart problems and strokes, depression and dementia.

"Loneliness sucks the joy out of life and affects far too many older people, but if we all play our part there's a lot we can do to tackle the problem." - Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK

  • 85% of over 60s surveyed by Age UK said there should be more help available for lonely older people
  • Over three fifths of this group thought regular visits from a friendly face could be helpful
  • Nearly half said the same about a regular phone call

How supermarkets can help to tackle the problem

Businesses, like local shops and supermarkets can play a very important role, noticing older people who may be lonely and chatting to them.

They can also be aware of local services that can help, and develop policies which help front line staff to become volunteer befrienders, making regular visits and telephone calls.

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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