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Leeds women’s loneliness timebomb

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Thousands of elderly women will be forced to endure intense loneliness and isolation in the final years of their lives, alarming figures reveal.

More than 32,000 women over the age of 65 will face a daily struggle of life on their own in Leeds within six years time.

A further 15,400 men over 65 are predicted to spend their final years facing a daily battle with social isolation.

Council chiefs have warned the number of pensioners battling with loneliness and living on their own will rocket over the next six years.

The warning comes as research reveals more than 8,500 people are battling with dementia – robbing them of their independence and dignity.

And health chiefs have warned that figure will soar to 12,000 by 2028.

Leeds has set itself an ambitious target to recruit 15,000 Dementia Friends to help the city tackle the scourge of social isolation.

Councillor Adam Ogilvie, executive member for adult social care, said: “This report highlights some extremely important issues for older people in Leeds, both now and looking to the future.

“It’s clear that there is some exceptional work already taking place in the city to help older people live safe, independent lives where they have access to services that are important to them.

“Working with our partners, we are also seeing a growing number of dementia friendly communities springing up around Leeds, where residents and businesses show their commitment to making their areas a welcoming and comfortable place for people with dementia to live and visit.

“However, there is still much to be done to ensure our city continues on the path to becoming one of the most age friendly in the country and that isn’t something we as a council can accomplish alone.

“We need everyone, young and old, to do their bit to ensure older people are not left on the sidelines and are given every opportunity to play an integral and active part in life in our city.”

A new report to the council’s Executive Board warns that more can be done to help support the city’s ageing population.

Leeds is currently aiming to secure nearly £6m of Big Lottery funding over six years after being shortlisted from over 100 applicants. The cash windfall will be used to fund projects that can help to tackle social isolation and loneliness.

CASE STUDY: ‘Some days the only person I see is my carer at breakfast time’

Breakfast time used to be the main highlight of Jean Saunders’ day.

Often this would be the only chance she had to speak to another person – her carer.

The 69-year-old would go for hours on end without anyone to share her thoughts with during her daily struggle on her own.

Her heartbreaking battle with loneliness made her feel like nobody in the city cared about her.

Jean, who lives in east Leeds, said: “I’ve been lonely, just stuck here by myself and don’t see many people.

“Some days the only person I see is my carer at breakfast time.

“It can feel like nobody is caring, that I am left out.”

Fortunately she is now more active and engaged in her local community with the support of Leeds Ageing Wellbeing Board.

But there are fears there are thousands of people just like Jean who are left socially isolated from their communities.

Another pensioner was forced to sleep in her sitting room because her late husband’s ashes where in “his” bedroom.

The 90-year-old from east Leeds was so distraught by the death of her beloved partner that she didn’t feel like she could sleep in their bedroom any longer.

She braved freezing nights, often in just her dressing gown, because she had no bedding in her sitting room.

But the support from Burmantofts Senior Action helped her to make a bed on the settee complete with a fleece blanket and they also offered advice about heating, bills and eating correctly.

Startling figures show that nearly 47,600 pensioners over 65 are predicted to live on their own in Leeds within six years.

The city’s support line of neighbourhood networks currently care for over 21,900 older people and have taken over 24,600 requests for assistance in the last 12 months

Within the last year the schemes have made 26 safeguarding referrals to Leeds Safeguarding Unit and have protected older people from abuse.

Councillor Adam Ogilvie, executive member for adult social care, warned that more needs to be done to combat social isolation.

He said: “Social isolation and loneliness is one of the blights of the 21st century.

“This is something we have got to tackle.”

He added: “It’s clear that there is some exceptional work already taking place in the city to help older people live safe, independent lives where they have access to services that are important to them.

“Our city-wide Neighbourhood Networks are making a huge difference to more than 20,000 people in Leeds and were recently highlighted as an example of best practice for other cities across the UK by the Institute for Public Policy Research.

“Working with our partners, we are also seeing a growing number of dementia friendly communities springing up around Leeds, where residents and businesses show their commitment to making their areas a welcoming and comfortable place for people with dementia to live and visit.”

l The Yorkshire Evening Post wants to hear your thoughts about social isolation. Are you living on your own? Is there enough support? Email laura.bowyer@ypn.co.uk.

 

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