Age UK executive says loneliness is nationwide issue for the elderly

The chief executive of Age UK Sheffield has described chronic loneliness in older people as an issue affecting people right around the country.

“As we know people are living longer and go through specific life changes, either bereavement or development of a long term health condition and sometimes people are living on their own with no sort of friends or family nearby,” said Steve Chu.

He added that a survey conducted by the charity found that 49% of people aged 65 or older said their closest source of company was either their TV or their pet.

Mr Chu described how Age UK Sheffield aim to help the elderly to form their own support networks rather than having to rely on the services of the charity.

“What we may do is look at what family members someone may have to support them or we might ask them whether neighbours or people in the local area can provide support.

“We also connect people to local clubs, groups and societies where they can get out and about and meet people, to do things that we really enjoy.”

The statement comes during Mental Health Awareness Week, as the UK aims to raise awareness of the many mental disorders that we can suffer from today.

However, many people may overlook the everyday struggle that the over 65 population have with loneliness in their later life.

Mr Chu said the charity had been severely affected by the cut of funding from the local authority.

“But money isn’t everything, we do provide what we believe is a great service in helping people to be happy and importantly living at home for as long as possible.

“Age UK is one of a number of charities working with the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, to try and raise awareness of the issue and put in place practical support.”

Age Better in Sheffield is a project run by South Yorkshire Housing Association which aims to support the elderly in the local community.

Hannah Hunt, SYHA’s Communications and Toolkit Co-ordinator, said there are 177,000 people aged 50 and over in Sheffield and 12,000 of them suffer from loneliness and isolation.

“With an ageing population, this has the potential to only get worse.

“There are many triggers that cause loneliness and isolation, from poor health, to life changes like retiring, to not being able to access what’s on locally online.”

The project provides a wide range of support for those aged over 50, from starting up their own activity group to counselling from their wellbeing practitioners.

“We hope to raise awareness of the issue of loneliness and isolation, and to empower individuals and communities to work with us to make Sheffield a city we’re proud to grow older in,” she said.

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