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Testing Promising Approaches to Reducing Loneliness

Testing Promising Approaches to Reducing Loneliness is a programme run by local Age UKs to test and improve loneliness service provisions.

About the programme

The programme was launched following the Promising Approaches to Loneliness and Isolation in Later Life report produced by Age UK and Campaign to End Loneliness in 2015.

Phase 1 ran from April 2015 to October 2016. Eight local Age UKs were selected to take part: Blackpool, South Lakeland, North Craven, North Yorkshire, Barrow-in-Furness, Wirral, Oxford and South Tyneside.

The local partners focused on testing and improving the following three approaches:

  • Understand: to better understand an individual's loneliness through conversation and respond to the individual's needs.
  • Reach: to identify and contact hard-to-reach older people who are lonely; by empowering local health and community services to be aware of loneliness and its indicators and to be equipped with information about local loneliness services. Partners made good use of the Loneliness Heat Map to aid targeting and identification.
  • Support: to provide wrap-around, tailored support to older people who are lonely by offering practical and emotional solutions that builds confidence and resilience.

Testing Promising Approaches report

Results, learnings and case studies of Age UK's pilot programme to reduce loneliness.

Testing Promising Approaches Technical Annex: the data behind our analysis (PDF 1 MB)

Case study: Charlotte, 90

Charlotte found herself alone when her husband died unexpectedly. On the face of it she had a lot of visitors, but felt that professionals and neighbours didn't have the time for socialising.

Her local GP referred her to Age UK's befriending service, where she was matched to local volunteer, Jean, who now visits weekly.

'It's not so much about being alone. It's about being lonely sometimes even when people are visiting... I was quite 'down' after everything [stroke, followed by fall] and confined to the house. I'm feeling happier and less nervous now. Jean's not just checking in each week. She's my new friend who helps me do the things I want to do.'

Why it was launched

Loneliness is a growing epidemic

It is predicted that between 2008 and 2033 there will be a 44% increase in the number of 65-74 year olds living alone, a 38% increase in those aged 75-85 and a 145% increase in those aged 85+.

Loneliness is a major public health concern

Research shows that being lonely can have a negative impact on physical and mental health. Loneliness can be as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and people with a high degree of loneliness are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's. Improved community-based loneliness services may help alleviate pressures on the NHS.

To raise awareness of the issue

Nearly half of older people say that television or pets are their main form of company. Age UK believe that work must be done to reduce this.

To strengthen the Age UK network

By testing out innovative solutions, Age UK is becoming a leading expert in loneliness reduction services, like the creation of the loneliness app.

To improve community resilience

Building partnerships with local services and organisations can provide well-informed and joined-up support for its most vulnerable and hard-to-reach older people.

Achievements so far

During the trial period over 1000 older people were supported by the participating local Age UKs as part of the programme, and had their loneliness measured using the UCLA 3-item loneliness scale. 530 of those had their loneliness levels reassessed within six to 12 weeks.

  • Of those who were monitored as part of the programme, 88% of people said that they were less lonely following the support and intervention received from the local Age UK.
  • Of those who were identified as 'often lonely', 88% of these people said they were less lonely at the second interview following the support and intervention received from the local Age UK. 70% of those who were 'lonely some of the time/hardly lonely' initially, felt a reduction in their loneliness.

Exploring and learning

The programme has helped local Age UKs to rethink their strategic approach to targeting people who could benefit from support and services but with whom they don't traditionally come into contact.

It created a greater awareness and understanding of a person-centred approach, resulting in an increase in cross-referrals between teams and activities.

There was an obvious impact of embedding an 'eyes on the ground' approach in the community. The approach has been very effective in generating more appropriate referrals of lonely older people.

By providing key people with practical information about the effects of loneliness and the personalised support available at Age UK, these professionals have shown greater confidence in signposting and referring older people to local Age UKs for support.

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Last updated: Sep 30 2021

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