Using social networking sites, going for walks and joining dating websites are just a few of the ways the over 65’s are combatting loneliness, it was revealed today.
The study of 1,000 adults over the age of 65, by leading developer and manager of retirement communities, McCarthy Stone, shows 53 per cent often feel lonely – particularly when they are home alone. But the majority are trying hard to overcome this and to stay connected with the outside world.
Researchers discovered seven in 10 retirees have taken to Facebook in a bid to stay in touch with friends and family, and a further one in 10 have taken to dating again.
Four in 10 respondents have made a concerted effort to volunteer within the local community, while 38 per cent go out for a walk and 28 per cent listen to the radio. A shopping spree, chatting to friends on the phone, and visiting friends or family are other ways older people try to combat loneliness.
A spokesperson for McCarthy Stone, which carried out the study via OnePoll.com, said: “Our survey shows many older people are feeling lonely, but rather than doing nothing about it, the majority are being proactive in finding friendship, “Mastering technology is just one of the ways older generations are staying in touch with people they know and love.”
The research highlighted the effects of loneliness on the older generation, with 42 per cent saying being lonely makes them feel sad and 28 per cent admitting to feelings of depression. More than one in five said being lonely made them feel invisible, while 15 per cent believe it affects their mental health.
A staggering 80 per cent of all those who are lonely have never told anyone else about this and one in seven admit to being embarrassed about feeling lonely.
When it comes to confiding in others, 42 per cent can’t bear to have people worrying about them and 37 per cent don’t want to be a burden. A fifth of those polled said their families have enough of their own worries, and a proud 49 per cent prefer to deal with their problems by themselves.
Just under half of those polled believe sons and daughters should look after their older parents, while 30 per cent think the healthcare profession should be responsible for lonely older people, and a quarter think the government should be accountable. But a resounding 68 per cent agree a small action from others – family, friends, neighbours and those within the local community – would make all the difference to how lonely they feel.
Paula Radcliffe MBE, brand ambassador for McCarthy Stone’s #takesone2018 campaign, which is aimed at getting people to pledge to undertake one small action to help combat loneliness in the older generation, said: “My own Grandma was a very formidable lady. When my Grandad passed away she was determined to carry on. She travelled to see me three times in the Olympic Games and World Championships. She really was an inspiration, and she would always call me if she felt a bit low.
Paula then went on to say, “My Grandma however, was probably in the minority of older people who often suffer in silence, or hide how their feeling because they’re embarrassed. It is so important we all take responsibility for the older generations living around us who might need some extra support. I think we all have opportunities to be a bit more community-minded. It’s important we pay attention to older people and try to meet them half way. After all, a smile can help anyone feel better no matter how old you are.”
Just under half of those polled said a ‘good morning’ greeting from a neighbour would help them to feel less lonely, while for 39 per cent a cheery wave from a neighbour as they walk or drive past would make a difference.
A postman or courier stopping for a chat would lift the spirits of one in five, and 28 per cent said someone calling round to check they were okay would help overcome feelings of loneliness. Being invited out for a coffee or a walk, receiving an unexpected call or message from a friend or family member, and even being asked for their help were also among the small actions that could transform the way older people feel.
The spokesperson for McCarthy Stone added: “It would be easy to get caught-up in our daily lives and to see the loneliness epidemic as someone else’s problem, but we all have a responsibility to the older people living in our communities. We are urging everyone to be aware of the older people living around them, and to get a little more involved in their neighbourhood from time to time. An impromptu chat with those living next door, being invited round for dinner once in a while, and even someone offering to put your bins out for the weekly collection are among the many thoughtful actions that can make all the difference when you’re feeling alone.”