Half a million older people spend every day alone.

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Half a million people over the age of 60 usually spend each day alone, with no interaction with others, and nearly half a million more commonly do not see or speak to anyone for five or six days a week, a poll suggests.

An older woman sits on a bed looking out a window
Almost half a million older people only have contact with others one or two days a week. Photograph: Education Images/UIG/Getty Images

Age UK, which commissioned the research, said the results highlighted a growing number of chronically lonely older people, which was placing increasing demand on health services.

The charity has been running a pilot programme in eight areas where Age UK groups have been actively trying to identify lonely older people and offer them companionship.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, said: “This new analysis shows that about a million older people in our country are profoundly alone, many of whom are likely to be enduring the pain and suffering of loneliness.

“That’s why the early results of our pilot programme into tackling loneliness in later life are so important: nine in 10 older people who were often lonely when they started the programme were less lonely six to 12 weeks later, with many also saying they felt generally happier, more confident and more independent as a result.

“Unfortunately, there is no simple solution for loneliness, but our pilot programme shows we really can make a difference and provides crucial insights into how the problem can be successfully overcome.”


The Age UK groups worked with local people such as hairdressers, shopkeepers and faith groups to help identify older people experiencing or at risk of loneliness.

They developed networks with professionals in voluntary and statutory services, such as GPs, practice and community nurses, social workers and police community support officers. Age UK has also developed a loneliness heat-mapping tool, which assesses risk factors such as age, marital status and number of household members.

People identified as lonely by Age UK groups were provided with telephone support and short-term, face-to-face companionship, with the aim of helping them reconnect with their communities.

Many were introduced to existing social groups, such as lunch clubs. Others were enabled to set up their own social networks, via introductions to people with similar interests, or via IT skills enhancement that allowed them to use Skype to stay in touch with friends and family.

“We dare to hope that our pilot programme contains the seeds of a new grassroots movement with the potential to transform lonely older people’s lives for the better,” Abrahams said.

The results will feed into Age UK’s submissions to the commission on loneliness, devised by the Labour MP Jo Cox before she was murdered last year by the far-right terrorist Thomas Mair.

The research agency TNS polled UK residents aged over 60, asking them how many days a week they usually spent alone with no visits or telephone calls. Out of 2,241 people, 498 said they spent seven days on their own and 464 said five or six days. The results were then extrapolated to reach the national figures.

source: Guardian

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  1. Thank you for highlighting this. I have been a Befriender for 30 years. I befriend the Over 60s in My Local Community.

  2. Are you joking? Donate to anything in England? I lived back there for a while and was terribly sick. I was around 70 and no one, absolutely no one cared one jot. I had the threat of cancer hanging over my head, I was forever catching germs and getting really very sick with each one and I could have died and the only thing that would have happened is the neighbours would have complained of the smell. My cats would have starved to death. I’ve neve been so glad to get out of anywhere in my life.
    As it turned out I developed the Broken Heart Syndrome and had a heart attack, which went undiagnosed (on top of suspected cancer) for 2 months. The doctor labelled me as “neurotic”. I went back to Australia (I am English and had returned) only to drop literally within hours ready to drop dead with a massive heart attack and immediately had to have a stent put in and then open heart surgery to repair all the damage due to the negligence in the UK. NO ONE gave a damn about me so what other older people do I do not know. It’s appalling. In fact it’s disgusting and I will never forget nor forgive some of the responses I got when ringing people and pleading for support and help. I got nothing. As for Age UK, they were the worst of the lot, asking me what on earth I was contacting them for as they couldn’t do anything to help me and there was nowhere they could send me to. How I got out I’ll never know and how I survived the plane journey the doctors don’t know. As they said “it just wasn’t my time”. That’s England now and it’s disgusting. Not like my old England at all anymore. Don’t expect me to give any money for you to misuse because that’s what’s happening. Anyone who is funded doesn’t do anything about the real problem, terribly lonely sick old people.

  3. Age Uk offer a befriending service which they charge out at £16 per hour. Telephone befriending however is free but in my opinion it’s not that helpful. How about donating IPads so that at least there is a visual element if people can’t afford a human interaction?

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