Many older people are ‘unprepared for the shock of loneliness’

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OLDER people are unprepared for the “shock” of loneliness in later life and need to do more to protect themselves from the risk of isolation, a campaigner has said.

Communities must also rally around those unable to build social networks in older age, Andy Nazar, campaign manager for England at the Campaign to End Loneliness, said.

The launch partner of The Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign, is encouraging people to ‘Be More Us’, and recognise the value of social connections.

According to the charity Independent Age, more than one in three people aged 75 and over say that feelings of loneliness are out of their control.

But Mr Nazar said older people should be encouraged to grasp the nettle and ensure their own social networks, be it family, friends or neighbours, are strong, especially when they face “life transitions” such as retirement or the loss of a loved one.

“There are shocks that come with older life that people don’t necessarily realise,” Mr Nazar said. “They may be becoming more aware of their pension or health worries, but what they are not necessarily thinking about are the relationships in their lives and the support they can call on as they get older.

“For many of us, life transitions that put people most at risk of loneliness are inevitable, for example giving up work. You may think that will leave you with plenty of time to spend in the garden, but the garden doesn’t seem quite as appealing in the winter months, your grandchildren grow up and the holidays you thought you’d be going on aren’t as accessible.

“Then the big one will come along – bereavement – and it’s the key time people become isolated.”

The majority of the areas that have aged most rapidly in Yorkshire are rural, and while, he says, many people who live in rural areas have built up a “sense of resilience” over time, the breakdown of many services in recent years is having an impact

He added: “Individuals have a role to play in ending loneliness, but local authorities, health services and businesses must also play their part by recognising there must be safe spaces for people to come together and build their social connections. This could be anything from pubs and bingo halls, to banks and post offices where people collect their pensions. These places are diminishing and meeting places in communities are disappearing.”