A fifth of over 75s go three months or longer with no one to share a meal with

Posted on: 7 September 2018

Analysis by Bournemouth University’s Ageing and Dementia Research Centre has revealed that almost a fifth of over-75s in the UK go three months or longer with no one to share a meal with.

This can lead to health problems, including malnutrition and chronic loneliness, as well as a higher risk of developing a degenerative illness, such as dementia.

A review in 2010 by PLOS Medicine found that loneliness can be as detrimental to an older person’s health as lifelong smoking and alcoholism.

Devon has a higher than average percentage of older people among its population.  Estimates suggest that between 15,000 to 19,000 over 65s in Devon experience intense loneliness; and that around 38,000 experience mild loneliness

The county does however have strong and active local communities, and lots of opportunities for people to look out for elderly neighbours and friends.

Devon County Council, the NHS and local voluntary organisations, have launched a website to help celebrate community activity, and that encourages people to get involved with volunteering and being engaged members of society.

The Show You Care website suggests different things that people can do; from small acts of kindness through to community projects.

Joan Norman is a Befriender with Ashburton Community Care.  She volunteers her time to talk to, support and encourage people who are elderly or socially isolated.

She says:  “Loneliness is a real issue for people, young and old, and it can have a serious impact on a person’s physical and mental wellbeing.

“I decided to volunteer my time for my community.  It’s my way of showing that I care.

“I find most people enjoy having someone to talk to.  It’s a lovely feeling because we are all human beings having a need to communicate and make social contact – speaking to someone at least every day and preferably going out to meet others at regular intervals. This gives the person something to anticipate and look forward to.”

Councillor Roger Croad

Councillor Roger Croad is the Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for communities.  He said:

“Devon is a large rural county with many small communities and residents who live on their own.  Loneliness though is not the reserve of people in rural communities, it’s also very real to people living in urban areas too.  Lots of people do already give their time voluntarily to support local community groups and projects, but we think more people are able to.

“If you have time that you could give in order to help others in your community, whether it’s as little as an hour or more, then please consider opportunities to do so.”

To find out more about things that you can do to make your community a better place to live, visit the Show You Care website.  There you will find information about opportunities including Befriending, with links to an online directory of voluntary and statutory services in your area.   To find local Befriending opportunities, visit the Pinpoint website.

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Posted in: Community | DCC Homepage | Health and Wellbeing