The government-led shut down in response to Coronavirus has highlighted the pressures of loneliness and isolation as families and friends are kept apart. And, as highlighted in the Housing LIN’s newly created online loneliness and social isolation portal, the current global pandemic has brought a laser focus to this issue, but tragically, for many of the UK’s elderly population, this is something many have been experiencing daily, well before COVID-19.
Research by the Campaign to End Loneliness (opens new window) revealed that over half of people aged over-75 live alone; 17 per cent of people have contact with families, friends and neighbours less than once a week; and 40 per cent of older people say that television is their main company.
Key to tackling social isolation amongst the elderly is to create environments where they can live meaningful, healthy, independent lives, where that can see family and friends easily, and still feel part of their local community.
Whilst we are now in extraordinary times, for the long term, we need to rethink housing for our ageing population so that we deliver inclusive communities that are welcoming to the wider public and which encourage interaction across the generations.
Numerous studies have shown that interaction with people of different ages can greatly improve mental health and wellbeing for older people. Research published by Plos Medicine Journal (opens new window) found that daily interactions with friends at age 60 led to a 12 per cent reduction in dementia development. The benefits also cut both ways. The Generations United and the Eisner Foundation (opens new window) found intergenerational interaction helps both older and younger people learn from each other’s skills and talents.
At Guild Living (opens new window), we are building communities that attract all generations and provide vibrant places for families and friends to visit. At our Epsom and Bath communities, we’ve designed nurseries within the schemes and plan to open up the bars, cafés and wellness amenities to the wider community. We will also be implementing programmes and therapies that will ensure our Members are in constant social contact with a “friendly Guild neighbour”.
Another of our long-term projects is a major academic research partnership with Bath University. This is analysing the causes and impacts of loneliness amongst the elderly, providing valuable insight into what they want and need from their home so we can imbed this from the ground up in our communities. For more, watch the YouTube video (opens new window).
As this period of lockdown has brought into stark reality, it’s imperative that we begin creating places which offer long term support and friendship and can tackle older age loneliness head on. Everyone deserves a community - and while it’s great to see efforts being made to care for our elderly at this time of crisis, we cannot go back to forgetting them once normality resumes.
The Housing LIN looks forward to working with Guild Living to report on the findings from the Bath University research project, A better way to age.