Research shows that half a million older people regularly experience protracted periods of isolation, going at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all.
This will undoubtedly be exacerbated by COVID-19 with people experiencing increased social isolation and loneliness due to the pandemic.
In a recent Inside Housing article, Alpha Living's CEO, Graeme Foster, highlighted just this. He explained how keeping older people's wellbeing in mind is crucial and how, as a social landlord accommodating people who are over 55, his housing association is responding to the operational challenges of coronavirus in a responsible and humane way.
Indeed, many of the approaches featured in the article are covered in our COVID-19 practice briefing for the specialist housing sector. However, he also outlined the significant impact loneliness and isolation will have on people's physical and mental health, especially those who already feel socially isolated or living alone. Startlingly, he points out that prior to this outbreak, one in ten of residents do not have regular contact with a family member.
And as services are locked down, people keep their social distance and/or self-isolate if they develop symptoms, there is a pressing need to urgently codesign or redesign ways in which we communicate, listen and support residents, in particular, those who are lonely or socially isolated by choice or due to infection. Whether in purpose-built accommodation, such as sheltered/retirement housing or extra care, or in general needs housing, it is more important than ever to deploy safe and appropriate systems that enable connectedness; from the landline to digital, the internal design and layout of schemes to building more resilient care and support networks.
“Research shows that half a million older people regularly experience periods of isolation”In recognition of the challenges of COVID-19 and the greater resourcefulness now needed, we have brought forward the release of our new microsite on loneliness and social isolation.
Sponsored by The Mercers Charitable Foundation (also an almshouse charity) and compiled before the coronavirus broke out, they bring all the related resources on loneliness and isolation scattered across the Housing LIN website into one place. The new site is arranged into 6 key topic areas and they showcase relevant resources, guidance and policy instruments; provide useful research findings; and illustrate examples of services and innovative projects that offer practical solutions in combatting loneliness and reducing social isolation. Our aim for these pages is to create a new online community of practice that both aids your understanding and shares the learning so that your organisation can adapt and/or take effective actions to respond increased loneliness and isolation that your residents will experience as a result of coronavirus.
On behalf of the Housing LIN and The Mercers Charitable Foundation, we wish you, your family, friends, colleagues and clients all the best at this time. Stay well, stay safe and, above all, stay connected.
To coincide with the release of our new loneliness and social isolation webpages, we have also produced a new practice briefing 'An A-Z of organisations and websites on ageing, loneliness and social isolation' which lists national organisations that offer information and advice.
If there are any documents on loneliness and social isolation that you consider would also benefit other Housing LIN members accessing, do let us know so we upload on our new site. Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.