Loneliness struggle in Leeds

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Thousands of pensioners in Leeds are facing a daily struggle with intense loneliness, according to a shocking new report.

Nearly 15,000 people aged over 65 in the city are “intensely lonely” and have lost their family, friends, mobility or income.

And 24,000 pensioners are living on their own – despite suffering from a limiting, long-term illness.

The report, by Leeds Community Foundation, lays bare just some of the heartbreaking issues elderly residents in the city are being faced with.

Nearly four in ten single pensioner households have spiralled into fuel poverty and many are forced to make the disturbing choice of spending their money on food or heating their homes.

And the report warns the number of people over 65 living alone in Leeds is predicted to rise by more than a third over the next 15 years.

The news comes as Leeds bids for millions of pounds of special grant funding to help offer support to some of the city’s most vulnerable elderly residents.

She was pushed to the brink of suicide by the twin scourges of failing health and loneliness.

The 84-year-old, named only as Nora, was left disabled after she suffered a stroke and fractured her hip.

And at her lowest point she said she “felt like sticking my head in a gas oven”.

Thankfully, help was at hand in the form of her local Neighbourhood Network who offered her the vital support she craved.

Nora is just one of thousands of people aged over 65 in Leeds who are facing a daily struggle living on their own with limiting, long-term illnesses.

And a new report by Leeds Community Foundation reveals nearly 15,000 pensioners are “intensely lonely”.

Over 10,000 over 65s are suffering from depression in Leeds - 3,232 have the most severe form.

And four in 10 single pensioner households are trapped in a cycle of fuel poverty and are forced to make the decision of eating or heating their homes.

The report warns that by 2030 the number of people over 65 living alone in Leeds is predicted to rise by more than 37 per cent.

The city is bidding for Lottery funding to support some of the city’s older residents.

And the Foundation has launched a new fund to help reach out to the community groups that have become a vital lifeline to the city’s elderly.

Sally-Anne Greenfield, chief executive of Leeds Community Foundation, said: “Our latest research paper highlights the key issues which need to be addressed to ensure that we as a city can be ready to support our ageing population.

“In addition to raising the issues we wanted to provide a mechanism that could generate money to tackle the issues. The Caring for Elderly Fund will provide much needed support to local community groups who provide vital frontline support.”

Councillor Adam Ogilvie, executive member for adult social care, added: “This is a really useful report in terms of putting together in one place the main issues we face as a city.

“I hope it can be used as a way of helping to tackle these very serious issues and social isolation and loneliness is one of the blights of the 21st century. The council is committed to try and address some of these issues.”

Police will today be visiting care providers across West Yorkshire asking them to sign up to a protocol which puts systems in place for early intervention when vulnerable residents go missing.

* This week the Yorkshire Evening Post will examine the report in depth and look at the work of groups in the heart of our communities who care for older people in Leeds.

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