Source : Press Association
Published on 26 July 2012 11:30 AM

Older people who find themselves increasingly isolated are being urged to reach out to close family members or their GP, after a survey found a rising number of men over the age of 75 whose lives are dominated by loneliness.

Almost 200,000 men in this age group are suffering in silence with extreme loneliness because of their ‘stiff upper lip’ attitude, according to research carried out on behalf of the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS).

The research – which focused on people over the age of 75 who live alone – found that 36% of men describe their situation as lonely or very lonely, compared to 31% of the women who were questioned. Yet men are less likely to seek help in such situations, according to the study.

The survey’s findings combined with recent figures from the Office for National Statistics showing the number of people living alone, suggest that there are more than 190,000 men over 75 who live in serious isolation in Britain.

An older man staring ahead.Loneliness link to ill health

The reluctance of men to seek help if they are lonely or isolated is a concern as various studies have shown that there is a strong link between loneliness and serious health problems. Research has shown that people in isolation are more likely to allow illness to develop unchecked until they reach crisis point.

Furthermore, a quarter of those surveyed who said they felt lonely said they do not leave their house for days on end and one in 10 said they are no longer eating properly.

But help is at hand for older people suffering with loneliness as there are a number of free services that can be accessed that provide company and companionship.

David McCullough, chief executive of the WRVS, said: ‘Sadly, while loneliness is fairly common among older men, it is something that once recognised can be addressed. We would encourage anyone who is feeling lonely to have a chat to their loved ones or to their GP.

‘There are many organisations like WRVS, with volunteers who can provide companionship, regular human contact and someone to chat with whether over a cup of tea, a drink in the pub, or a visit to the shops.’

What Age UK thinks and does

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK said: ‘Living in isolation and loneliness is a stark reality for too many older people and can have a significantly adverse effect on their physical and mental health; studies have proved it can be equivalent to well established risk factors such as obesity and smoking.

‘Disability, illness, problems with finances and lack of access to transportoften mean older people feel cut off from their family, friends and local community. No older person should suffer in silence especially as there is help available.

‘Age UK provides a national telephone befriending service while many Local Age UKs also provide their own befriending schemes, day centres, lunch clubs and digital training so that people can stay in touch. Call our free advice line on 0800 169 6565 or speak to your local Age UK.’