COUNCILS across the UK are being urged to follow Leeds’ example and address the triggers of loneliness, as new research shows that one in five people aged over 60 who experience loneliness have no one to turn to.
The Campaign to End Loneliness (CTEL) has highlighted the work of the city’s 37 Neighbourhood Networks in new guidance which calls on local authorities to recognise the importance that essential services can have in helping elderly people at risk of loneliness stay connected.
The Campaign states that the support needed should include transport and technology – with 41 per cent of those who feel lonely saying transport is a barrier to seeing people, and half saying they believed the internet can help prevent loneliness.
Campaign director Laura Alcock-Ferguson said local authorities need to recognise the “potentially devastating” impact that changes to service provision could have on an older person’s ability to stay in touch with their friends, family and neighbours.
She said she hoped other councils would be inspired by the networks, and particularly Action for Gipton Elderly (AGE), who worked with the Campaign to produce a new video on its work.
The small team of staff and volunteers have been working with vulnerable older people in the area for 17 years, using a community approach to reach out to those who are isolated.
AGE manager Karen Woloszczak said: “This has proven to be very successful by developing confidence, interests and networks and allowing people to be more engaged in their community in meaningful ways.
“Friendships have developed over shared interests that show older people as active participants, and we encourage the wider community to realise the wealth of knowledge and true value of older people by working with younger generations on hobbies and interests.”
Coun Lisa Mulherin, Leeds Council’s executive member for health, wellbeing and adults, said the networks act as “a model of innovation” in helping to ensure older people can access the services they want at the heart of their communities.
“Organisations like Action for Gipton Elderly empower thousands of older residents in Leeds to socialise and live independently, giving them the choice and control they need to play an active role in the places where they live,” she said. “That level of local engagement is key to ensuring older people do not become isolated and are instead able to participate in an increasingly diverse range of activities, meet new people and stay out of the grip of loneliness. That in turn is hugely beneficial to their health and wellbeing and supports them to live healthier, happier and more independent lives.”