News: Don't forget older people as lockdown loneliness skyrockets
Published on 30 June 2020 03:09 PM
Age Scotland is deeply concerned about the “hidden epidemic” of loneliness as new research shows almost three quarters (71 per cent) of over-55s have struggled with the lockdown.
New research from Santander, released today, found that four in ten adults in the UK (38 per cent) have noticed a deterioration in the health and wellbeing of their older and vulnerable relatives since the start of the lockdown.
More than half of older people say they have heard less from their friends and family in the last few months, while one in five (21 per cent) have been drinking too much alcohol to cope with feelings of isolation.
One in eight (12 per cent) feel that the pandemic will have a lasting impact on their feelings of loneliness even when it is over.
Brian Sloan, Chief Executive of Age Scotland, said: “While not entirely surprising, these stark new figures are deeply worrying. We already knew that chronic loneliness was a huge problem before the pandemic, with one significantly lonely older person on every street in Scotland.
“Sadly this research confirms our suspicion that these numbers have shot up considerably in the last few months. It’s heart-breaking to think of hundreds of thousands of older people stuck at home for days or weeks on their own, without as much as a friendly phone call.
“While reducing contact can save lives now, we can’t ignore this hidden epidemic behind closed doors. Loneliness quite literally can kill – it is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and increases our chances of heart disease and dementia. In addition, it can seriously impact our mental health, leading to severe depression and anxiety. As this research shows, it can also lead to unhealthy habits, such as drinking too much or neglecting to eat properly.
“Our Helpline advisors hear every day from callers who are struggling to cope, with only their TV for company. Many feel extremely low, anxious or isolated, or even feel their lives aren’t worth living. Callers often say it is just nice to hear a friendly voice again.
“It’s especially sad to hear that so many have seen reduced contact from their family and friends. While visiting our older relatives may not be an option now, we can all reach out by phone, video call or an old-fashioned letter or card. It doesn’t take much effort but can make a huge difference to someone who is on their own.
“As lockdown eases and we start getting back to the ‘new normal’, it’s vital that we don’t forget those who are especially vulnerable or still shielding. We’ve seen a heartening response from communities and volunteers across Scotland, but we need to keep these efforts going to ensure no one has to go through this alone.”
Age Scotland launched its Friendship Calls this month. Anyone feeling lonely or who just fancies a blether can call free on 0800 12 44 222, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.