Age UK Sheffield on tackling loneliness

By fionab | Posted 29.03.2017

age UK sheffield

The John Lewis 2015 Christmas advert, produced in partnership with Age UK, seemed to really strike a chord up and down the country. Remember the man on the moon, who was so isolated from his family until his granddaughter sent him a telescope? It offered him a window on the world and brought a tear to my eye.

Taking a holistic approach

At Age UK Sheffield, we take a holistic approach to the needs of older people, exploring not just the issues which are presenting, but the underlying reasons for those issues. We ask the person what their aims and aspirations are, and support them to achieve them for themselves.

Which is why we are pleased to have a wide range of excellent local partnerships, including Drink Wise, Age Well. There are times when the person we are working with is experiencing poverty, poor health, or loneliness and social isolation which, upon a wider discussion, may be linked to a number of other issues, including alcohol use or dependency. Where that is the case, knowing we can refer to a Drink Wise, Age Well support worker is a great tool to have in our box.

In Sheffield, Drink Wise, Age Well also runs some great local activities. Including historical tours and creative arts. We promote these to our members because we believe in connecting to as many local opportunities as possible. As long as the activity and organiser are appropriate, we want to give the people we work with a choice about what will best fit in with their needs and aspirations. Some may attend because they are seeking support with alcohol issues; others may simply enjoy the activity and want to meet new people; others still may never have considered being involved in an alcohol-related programme but, once they get there discover some useful tips for simple changes they can make to have a healthier life.

Tackling loneliness

Loneliness is a curse, but it is a silent one that rarely stirs the emotions in the way John Lewis managed to. The public may complain about hospital waiting times or the closure of care homes because they can see them with their eyes. But they don’t see loneliness. It takes place behind closed doors, where no one can see, so few people are moved to do something about it.

But loneliness costs people their health and taxpayers their money. The health effects of being lonely can be equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day. People who report a high degree of loneliness are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as those who report low levels.

Age UK and a range of other charities are partnering with the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness to address these issues and effect positive change in the way we view and respond to loneliness. Jo set up her Commission before she was tragically murdered last June. For more information, visit: www.jocoxloneliness.org.

What can you do?

Finally, on a more practical level, there are perhaps a few simple things you could do, if someone you know might be lonely. Small things make a huge difference:

* Why not call an older relative or friend you haven’t seen for a while to see how they are?

* If your neighbour lives alone and is struggling to get out and about, maybe you could invite them round to your house for a cup of tea or a chat

* You could invite someone who wants to get out but doesn’t know where to go, to a local event?

* If you’d like more contact with other older people and use your skills, maybe you could volunteer? For example, Age UK Sheffield has opportunities for volunteers to answer phones in our office, give information to other older people, and visit or phone other people we work with

If you’d like more information about our work with people aged 50 and over in Sheffield, visit www.ageuksheffield.org.uk or call us on (0114) 250 2850.