Almost half of elderly people over the age of 85 don’t ever go out socially, new research has found, with many struggling to get to the shops or even access a doctor.
The study, based on reports from 10,000 people aged over 65, found that social exclusion is impacting on the oldest people in society. Those aged over 85 were four times more likely to feel shut out of society than those aged over 65, social policy researchers at the University of Lincoln and Sheffield Hallam University found. And, it emerges, this was true even for those who still had a partner alive, suggesting elderly couples are also at risk of social exclusion.
The Yorkshire Post has been campaigning since 2014 to raise awareness of the issue of loneliness, as studies show it can be as damaging to health as smoking and obesity. Now, Dr Wesley Key, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Social and Political Sciences, says steps must be taken to improve awareness and availability of technologies which can improve access to services such as online shopping and banking.
“Those aged 85 and above are still at greater risk of social exclusion even if we take poor health into account,” he said.
“We know that a loss of social contact can damage physical and mental health, and furthermore, older people are more likely to need care from external providers if they live alone, something which is more likely among the oldest old. This places more pressure on statutory health and social care services. Measures must be taken to help them continue living in their own homes for as long as possible, whilst maintaining adequate social relations and being able to access services.”