The answer is YES. Everyone can reduce isolation and make communities better places to live and grow older: All you need is a bit of time!
Isolation and loneliness is on the government’s agenda. Since her recent appointment as loneliness minister, Tracey Crouch has revealed that she was approached by lawmakers from Sweden and Canada, who are looking to the UK as an example on how to tackle isolation. This is clearly something that isn’t just happening in Britain but all over the world.
Appointing Crouch is a great and welcome first step but communities won’t change unless everyone does their own bit. We’re talking small acts of kindness, things that every single person can do to help make their neighbourhood a better place to live in. We’re talking about breaking down boundaries between young and old, different communities, backgrounds, experiences and living arrangements.
Neighbours help Isolated and lonely seniors
Loneliness and isolation affect people from all walks of life. Three out of four GPs say they see between one and five people a day who have come in mainly because they are lonely and research has shown that loneliness kills people. It increases the risk of death by ten per cent, is twice as harmful as obesity and doubles the risk of dementia.
- 75% of older people in the UK are lonely (Local Government Association)
- For 3.6 million people aged 65 and over television is the main form of company – that’s two out of every five older people. (Age UK)
- 8 out of 10 carers have felt lonely or isolated as a result of looking after a loved one. (Carers UK)
- More than 1 in 10 men say they are lonely, but would not admit it to anyone. (Royal Voluntary Service)
- 38% of people with dementia said that they had lost friends after their diagnosis (Alzheimer’s Society)
But it’s not all doom and gloom! The best thing about this is that everyone can get involved and do something to help! It doesn’t even take a lot of effort! The answer is something that most of us have access to: time. Even a little time goes a long way. By giving some of your time, you give isolated older neighbours a chance to feel connected again.
By talking, inviting people over and making time to see what older neighbours need a hand with, you are taking simple steps to held reduce isolation, and making your community a better place to live in. It means you will not only get to know a neighbour better, you will also live in a place that will be better for you when you get older.
Simple steps such as asking your neighbours if they fancy a cup of tea, help with changing a light bulb or taking their bins out can form a great foundation for helping people who are isolated to regain their confidence and feel safe to speak with people again.
On our programme, a lot of the time we hear about men having a sense of fear about joining a new activity such as a coffee morning or hobby group – so, by having regular conversations with neighbours you could help make them feel better about themselves, resulting in an increased sense of belonging to the community, and maybe even to rack up the confidence to attend activities in the community.
You can help people with their shopping, organise a small dinner, watch the football together, walk the dog together, help out with gardening or anything else you find out your older neighbours could do with! Start by asking them how their day has been, and then move on to checking if they want a hand with anything – or simply invite them over!
Good luck and remember that you’re making a big difference to your local community!