NEWS

More than 3m older people rely on friendly neighbours to brighten up their days

Age UK has urged the UK public to stop and chat with their older neighbours in a bid to combat loneliness, following new research.

The findings of the research led by Age UK showed the importance neighbours are in the lives of older people, with 3.4 million over-65s relying on chats with their neighbours to brighten their day.

A staggering 1.7 million older people in England going a whole month without meeting up with a friend and a further estimated 300,000 over-65s aren’t having a conversation with their family or friends over this same period, the charity is now urging everyone to take just a few minutes of their time to chat to their older neighbours.

Neighbourly talks topped the list in their research, it was found 10 per cent of older people said having a chat with a dog-walker or other passer-by makes their day better.

1.3 million of older people have also been relying on staff at newsagents, cafes and other local shops to have a conversation to cheer up their days, and 1.2 million rely on chats with supermarket staff.

Age UK has a long history of providing services which help address loneliness, for example through offering a range of activities for older people to enjoy at their local Age UKs including lunch clubs, dance lessons and crucial advice when there’s no-one else to turn to.

Levi Roots, an Age UK ambassador who recently visited Age UK Barnet men’s cooking class, said: “Loneliness is an awful feeling to experience. I know first-hand how upsetting it can be, I felt like the loneliest person in the world at one point and I see it in my 88-year-old mother too.

“One of the best things we, as a society, can do is to give up our personal time to help fight it. Pop round to see a neighbour or family member, have a cup of tea with them, help with the shopping, just check in and chat when you can.

“For me, cooking together is a great idea to help older people feel less lonely – it can bring back fond memories for many and really brighten up someone’s day. Not only that, it’s a great way to keep active and be healthy too. These things can really make such a difference and change somebody’s life.”

Loneliness is a huge issue that affects people all year round but it can become even harder during the winter months. Colder weather brings an increase in associated health problems for those in later life and short, dark days make it harder to get out and about, which can leave older people feeling more isolated and alone and more reliant on family, friends or neighbours able to pop by.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said: “Loneliness sucks the joy out of life and affects far too many older people, but if we all play our part there’s a lot we can do to tackle the problem.

“As people age, their local area usually matters a lot more to them than it did when they were younger because they spend more time in it. None of us can ‘solve loneliness’ on our own, but a friendly chat with your neighbour or when you’re out and about can brighten up an older person’s day and do much more good than most of us would ever guess.”

For more information on how you can get involved and to donate, visit www.ageuk.org.uk/donate.

About the author

Tamara Birch