Visiting and befriending

The Loneliness Epidemic

Every day nearly 100,000 elderly in the South West have no contact with anyone at all. Nationally over three million over 65s say they often go a whole month without speaking to a friend or neighbour and 250,000 do not see relatives or friends at all (Home Office, 2003, and General Household Survey, 2001).

There are different types of loneliness, such as social loneliness and emotional loneliness. As a report from WRVS explains ‘Emotional loneliness is the absence of a significant other with whom a close emotional attachment is formed (e.g. a partner or best friend) and social loneliness is the absence of a social network consisting of a wide or broad group of friends, neighbours and colleagues.’  Loneliness and social isolation can affect everyone but older people are particularly vulnerable after the loss of friends and family, reduced mobility or limited income.

WRVS has published a series of reports that highlight the problem of loneliness among older people and its associated health risks, such as the link between declining mental health and physical health problems that compromise their quality of life. A 2008 study from the University of Chicago found that chronic loneliness is a health risk factor comparable to smoking, obesity and lack of exercise and contributes to a suppressed immune system, high blood pressure and increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Loneliness also has a much wider public health impact too, as it is associated with a number of negative health outcomes including mortality, morbidity, depression and suicide as well as health service use (Vicotor, Scambler, Marston et al, 2006).

Befriending

Regular contact and the feeling that someone is there to help if needed can be invaluable to isolated older people and the regular befriending of elderly people by volunteers is a very rewarding experience both for the volunteers as well as the befriended.

We have a number of dedicated Anchor volunteer visitors who visit people in receipt of regular grants, filling a vital role of companionship, guidance and support.

Table tennis players talking to President Michael McCaldin at St George LinkAge centre IMG_0668 edit IMG_0671 edit