Living Alone and Social Isolation

Lucy Pilliner, Business Manager at Katherine Harriet Ltd looks at loneliness and isolation and how this is a growing public health concern:

Did you know, In the UK, over half of the elderly aged 75 and above live alone.

Loneliness and Social Isolation are growing public health concerns in our ageing society. Whilst these experiences occur across the life span, 50% of individuals aged over 60 are at risk of Social Isolation and one-third will experience some degree of loneliness later in life. 

At Katherine Harriet we strive to ensure time is well spent with our Clients, it may only be as little as 30 minutes, but those 30 minutes could be all our clients see in a day. Minutes are very precious in our line of work.

STOP – close your eyes for a few moments and try to imagine being in your home every single day with only yourself and the TV for company, no phone ringing, no one knocking at the door, no one to talk to, no family “just silence” watching people out the window go about their lives, praying that soon your carer will arrive even if only for those precious 30 minutes. 

Some of you will read this and think this is heaven! Would it really be heaven in reality.

Public Health state the risk factors for Loneliness and Social Isolation among older people include family dispersal, decreased mobility and income, loss of loved ones, and poor health. It is thought that social change including reduced inter-generational living, greater geographical mobility and less cohesive communities have also contributed to higher levels of loneliness in the older population. 

Whatever the cause, it’s shockingly easy to be left feeling alone and vulnerable, which can lead to depression and a serious decline in physical health and wellbeing.

People of all ages need connections that matter. Having the friendship and support we need is a fundamental part of our wellbeing and when loneliness becomes entrenched it can be hardest to overcome.

We think of our Clients being alone, but what about carers they are lone workers, siblings or families look after there loved one’s they may have no support or even the choice.  Social isolation is about how many social contacts a person has, while loneliness is a feeling of a lack of companionship. Loneliness is a feeling that can come and go, or it can be something a person feels all of the time

Even our Wellbeing Assistants out working can feel a state of loneliness in a different way, yes, they see the Clients and yes, they may have family, friends on the end of the phone but working the hours we do in our job can be lonely when you don’t see your colleagues for days, weeks even months on times. This is why we always offer an open door at Katherine Harriet where staff can come and say hello, have a coffee or just a chat, we hold regular staff meetings, a coffee cake and chat afternoon monthly where staff meet up just for a laid-back chat and catch up with each other and social events. 

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time”

Age UK run a Loneliness Awareness Week every year in June and there is also some resource material and guides on their website. 

Lucy Pilliner – Business Manager