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Loneliness Epidemic Amongst The Elderly In The UK



Caring for the Elderly should be more than just Care!

Our healthcare may be better than ever before and as a result, we may be living longer but is this making us happier?  A longer life could mean you are living longer on your own.  According to a survey by Age UK, almost one in ten elderly people suffer from intense loneliness.  Long hours in the workplace and children moving away from the area they were brought up, has led to a breakdown in the family structure of a bygone era.  Gone are the days when several generations lived in the same house or same street.  There was always someone you could rely on and have a conversation with.  The family structure was essential for the physical and emotional support of the elderly.

Loneliness could be the hidden killer of the elderly.  Lack of mobility and loss of family and friends can lead to elderly people being trapped in their own homes.  Winter is a particularly difficult time as the inclement weather makes it even harder for a person with mobility issues to get out.  Not talking to anyone day after day, can lead to feelings of complete isolation that they are living in a world where nobody cares.  Feeling separated from society can lead to an increased risk of depression, poor diet, and lack of exercise.  There is a link between the lack of social interaction and Alzheimer’s disease and loneliness can have harmful effects on the immune and cardiovascular systems.

British families have changed

Family structure in the UK has changed.  We grow up, move away from our place of birth, and often don’t return.  The majority of women with children work and with longer working hours, our daily family lives are busy.  Our standard of living may be higher than past generations but we are time-poor.  The effects of this change are coming to light as our population grows older.  There are some cultures where this is not a problem as the family structure has remained the same.  Looking after elderly relatives is not seen as a burden but a duty and an honor.  As a result, the elderly are an inclusive and respected part of society and will never feel alone.

Caring for the elderly is a complex issue and with an increased elderly population, the challenging task of reforms to the care system is becoming essential.  Ending loneliness should be a part of the solution.  The provision of social clubs and day centers for the elderly is essential for their health and happiness.  Everyone needs to take a responsibility for the elderly people in their street.  It doesn’t take much to change our habits, to knock their door and pop in for a chat.  Even a phone call can be enough to cheer someone up and to remind them that they are not part of a forgotten generation.