According to the WRVS, 75% of men over 75 feel lonely and isolated. While the UK and other European countries implement austerity measures brought about by the previous financial and economic crisis of 2008, they are also faced with the challenge of an increasingly ageing population and its repercussions.
Ageing Across Europe, a report published by the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) in May 2012 reveals concerning trends amongst men over the age of 75, who are less likely to seek help for isolation and loneliness than women for a number of reasons, perhaps because men feel that they are indomitable and can therefore cope without seeking help.
The fact that this report was published by the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service speaks volumes, as does the fact that BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour also felt compelled to deliver a programme on the subject on 16 August 2012 featuring an interview with Matthew Sowemimo, Head of Policy for the WRVS and the story of one man’s experience following the death of his wife.
Whilst the findings highlight the extent to which these men are socially isolated and lonely, 85% of those surveyed said they feel better after seeing friends or family – that’s over 160,000 men. This is where an organisation such as Men Beyond 50 can really look to fill the gap and fulfil the need for altruistic services like this for men.
Here is a snapshot of the report’s findings from 190,000 British men over the age of 75 who live alone:
• 75% have never sought help for feelings of loneliness or isolation, despite 54% admitting to suffering from feelings of depression
• 62% feel lonely because either their partner has passed away or they have lost companions their own age (54%)
• 41% typically have two or fewer face to face conversations per day and 3% per cent have none
• 36% spend more than 12 hours per day without contact with anybody
• 36% cited a loss of confidence
• 26% have given up on their hobbies
• 21% do not leave the house for days at a time
• One in eight worry about their mental health because they have no-one to talk to
Experts agree universally that loneliness is a serious health issue, not least because older people who feel lonely and isolated are far more likely to develop illnesses and require hospital care. In this time of crisis for both the economy in the UK and the NHS, now more than ever is the time to encourage a national debate about how we can all help to make the UK a better place in which to age. It’s time to look at the policies and services of our European neighbours to see which are the most effective in providing older people with a decent quality of life in these challenging times.
As David McCullough, Chief Executive of the WRVS recently commented, “it is good to see that the Government and local authorities have made a commitment in the social care white paper for loneliness to be mapped in each area. This research shows how crucial it is for Health and Wellbeing boards to deliver on the targets for loneliness they have been set. Action is urgently needed on the ground now to make sure older people experiencing loneliness get the help they need.”
Would you like to join the WRVS Befriending Service? They are currently seeking male and female volunteers – given that their research demonstrates 85 per cent of men who are lonely say they have felt better after seeing friends or family, you could really make a difference to somebody’s life. Click here for further information.