Age NI and the Public Health Agency have come together to introduce an innovative approach to tackling loneliness experienced by older people across Northern Ireland, as part of an initiative by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.
In partnership with the five Health and Social Care Trusts, the PHA is working with Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) to distribute Age NI Advice and Advocacy Service cards when working with older people.
Research shows that chronic loneliness affects around 10% of older people with one study showing that 'lonely people have a 64% increased chance of developing clinical dementia'.
Linda Robinson, Age NI Chief Executive, said, 'Loneliness takes the joy out of life and undermines a person’s feelings of self-worth. We all have a role to play in reducing loneliness and isolation experienced by older people. Age NI is urging everyone to ‘start a conversation’ on loneliness by being friendly and chatting with a neighbour, visiting or staying in touch with an older relative or simply making time for the people we meet.
'Every day, 3,500 AHPs across Northern Ireland are in direct contact with the most hard to reach and vulnerable older people in our society. They are witnessing first hand the scale and impact of isolation and loneliness experienced by older people. Age NI is delighted to be working in partnership with health professionals who will ‘start a conversation’ about loneliness and put older people in touch with our freephone Advice and Advocacy Service so that they can find out about the help and support we provide.
'Every year, Age NI provides support, care and companionship to thousands of older people who are living with a range of health conditions like dementia, mobility issues, stroke and cancer.
'This approach is particularly timely in light of the initiative by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness which seeks to increase awareness of loneliness and encourage positive action to tackle it. We are looking forward to working with the AHPs to combat this ‘silent epidemic’.
Michelle Tennyson, Assistant Director for Allied Health Professions and Personal & Public Involvement at the Public Health Agency, said, 'AHPs are passionate about tackling loneliness as part of their public health role. Given the volume of people we support, we have the potential to identify and reach out to a large number of older people who are at a greater risk of being lonely and isolated. We are committed to working in partnership with local trusts and organisations, like Age NI, to help reduce loneliness in older people.
'AHPs are well placed to support people who may be experiencing loneliness, such as through the promotion of independence and general health and wellbeing, provision of early intervention techniques and provision of advice and support to help prevent physical and mental ill-health. Older people form a large proportion of the AHP caseloads and they frequently support clients in their own home, so they are ideally placed to help tackle loneliness in our community.
'As part of the Jo Cox campaign, AHPs are pledging to distribute Age NI Advice Cards during our conversations with older people.'