Elderly men suffer in silence as volunteer numbers fall short

The wide gulf between the number of lonely older men and the supply of male volunteers to support them is revealed today by the Royal Voluntary Service.

One in four widowers aged over 75 who miss having someone to share in their hobbies wish that they had someone to attend a sports event with, a study carried out for the charity by PCP Market Research has found.

Another 16 per cent long for a friend who can accompany them to the pub to watch the action unfold on the big screen but there are not enough male volunteers to offer companionship.

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More than 140,000 older men living alone in Britain suffer from loneliness as a result of their partner’s death, the RVS’s research found, but there are just 297 male volunteers for the charity across Yorkshire – less than 20 per cent of its regional volunteer pool.

Carol Nevison, the charity’s head of operations for the North, said the scale of loneliness among older men uncovered by the research is likely, however, to be the tip of the iceberg, with men less likely than women to seek support for its Good Neighbours companionship scheme and meals and books-on-wheels services.

“We are all aware that there are hundreds of thousands of older people suffering from loneliness in Great Britain but many men are facing loneliness and not asking for help,” she said.

To promote the support that exists for older men who are struggling with feelings of loneliness, and to enlist more male volunteers, the RVS has joined forces with some of the region’s biggest rugby clubs as part of its Manhunt campaign.

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Mrs Nevison added: “As we get older and lose our friends and family we often lose touch with the activities that used to give us pleasure such as supporting the local rugby team, taking walks with a friend or going out for a meal or a pint at the pub.

“We know from talking to the older men who use our services that they enjoy taking part in these activities with other gentlemen, so we need more male volunteers to enable us to help those who are no longer able to enjoy their hobbies and are feeling the acute effects of loneliness.”

The Castleford Tigers, Bradford Bulls and Huddersfield Giants are among those to have pledged support to the Manhunt campaign which will highlight the roles the charity needs male volunteers to fulfil, from driving service users to games to having a chat in the pub or taking an older person to a GP appointment.

Clubs are supporting the campaign by inviting older men from the local area to attend a game with their volunteer and have hosted recruitment events to encourage supporters to give up an hour a week to make a difference to an older man’s life.

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Lending his support to the initiative, Castleford Tigers’ club captain Michael Shenton said: “Sport has a great way of bringing people together in camaraderie and joint passion.

“Many older men miss out on supporting their local team as they don’t have a companion to come along to a game with or a friendly face to chat about their hobbies. I would encourage men to sign up as volunteers to help older men across the country rediscover their love of sport.”

To volunteer for RVS call 0845 608 0122 or visit www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk

Readers can back the Yorkshire Post’s campaign to highlight the human cost of loneliness, which takes it toll on 91,300 older people in our region, by writing to their local authority, urging it to write loneliness into its health strategies or by volunteering for projects in their communities.

For full details, visit yorkshirepost.co.uk/loneliness