With such change afoot in our communities, it’s important to seek out the vulnerable to provide help and support.As part of this, Loneliness Awareness Week was introduced to bring the issue to the forefront of people’s minds and to address the problems that come from being older and alone.
Why is this such a big issue in today’s society? There are multiple factors that go into making this a problem, principally the sea changes in the societal norms of fifty years ago and those of today, meaning the loss of a support network of family and close friends. Why? • Communities, for example. Back in the day communities were far more cohesive; it wasn’t unusual to have several family members all living in the same neighbourhood, providing a mutual network of support. Nowadays, families are more likely to scatter across the country, and the globe, leaving behind the older generation who have lived their early lives and often just want to settle down in their retirement. This results in a disconnection within communities which the older generation suffer from. • Accommodation. Over the last sixty or so years we have seen – quite literally – the rise of alternative places to live. Many, many older people in south London are now housed in tower blocks of flats, rather than houses on the street, the results of which can often be a total disconnect with their neighbours. Gone are the days of scrubbing your front step and chatting while you do it; these older people have grown up with a different way of living.
• High turnover of residents. With the expansion of today’s society, and the impact of emigration and immigration, close neighbours are more likely to move on more quickly than in the past, leaving it difficult to form lasting friendships.
So, what can we do? Five years ago, the broadcaster Esther Rantzen – well known for her charity work – recognised the scale of the problem and set up The Silver Line. This is the only 24/7 helpline for those who suffer social isolation; providing information, support, advice and friendly chats for those in need. Loneliness Awareness Week has harnessed the energy of this campaign and make it as widely known as possible. The Silver Linecan literally be a lifeline for older, more vulnerable people which is why it’s essential to keep it up and running. However, long term sustainability is beginning to be a key issue. Up until now, the line has been run exclusively by paid staff who are there 24/7, 365 days of the year. But the demand is everincreasing, it has taken 2.5 million calls to date, and more help is needed to keep it going. The Silver Lineis a vital tool in combating the social isolation and loneliness among vulnerable people which is swiftly becoming an epidemic sweeping across the UK. This is why it’s now hoping to set up ‘Volunteer Hubs’ so this support can continue to be offered at the level that it’s needed. The first of these hubs will be based at the charity headquarters in Battersea. Further information about this amazing charity, its work and how you can help can be found online.
In 2017 the population was 65.6 million – its largest ever number. 18% of this is people aged 65 and over and 2.4% are aged 85 and over. Our older section of society is rapidly expanding and there are the consequences of this which need to be addressed to support the ever-growing population of the UK, estimated to reach the giddy heights of over 73 million by 2039. Births are continuing to outnumber deaths and immigration continues to outnumber emigration, resulting in a growing population.