According research conducted by Age Concern more than one in ten over 65’s admitted too always or often feeling lonely. Almost half consider television their main for of company and half a million spent christmas day alone. Over the past few years local services that the older generation used to rely on for company and convenience have been rapidly declining. More than 2,500 post offices have closed, 5,000 small shops have disappeared in the past six years and pubs are closing at the rate of 27 a week.
The digital revolution could be a possible lifeline for the elderly, allowing them to connect with people, become more socially active and stay in touch with people via the internet if they are unable to get out much. However the latest research has shown that only 17 per cent of over 65’s go online and only half of the people over 50 have access to the internet. The next generation of the elderly are likely to be more technology literate as they experienced the rise of the internet whilst they were still young enough to sock it all up.
However, for now the fact remains that more and more people are dying alone and live without the comforts tghat families and friends offer. Mervyn Kohler, head of policy at Age Concern/Help the Aged, said that loneliness is not an inevitable part of old age, but that it was more likely to affect the elderly because of bereavement, ill health and poverty.
Contact the Elderly is an organisation which provide services exclusively for the very elderly who are living alone. They run a scheme which sees volunteers organise monthly events such as afternoon tea and they drive elderly people to their homes and offer them support. All of this goes a long way in making those who are lonely and less able to care for themselves feel like they have more independence.
The demand for services such as these is on the increase with the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics showing that there are 7.5 million people — half of pensionable age — living alone compared with 4.3 million 15 years ago.