The last two years have truly highlighted the detrimental effects that isolation and loneliness can have on older people. Figures from Age UK show that 1.4 million people in the UK, aged 55 or older, experience loneliness, with almost 500,000 going five or six days without seeing or speaking to anyone at all.
At Abbeyfield, in line with our founder's mission to alleviate loneliness in older people, we recognise the differences between loneliness and isolation. It is possible to be surrounded by people and yet feel lonely just as it is possible to be isolated but not feel alone.
- Older people are particularly vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness owing to loss of friends and family, mobility or income.
- Social isolation and loneliness have a detrimental effect on health and wellbeing. Studies show that being lonely or isolated can impact on blood pressure, and is closely linked to depression.
- The impact of loneliness and social isolation on an individual’s health and wellbeing has cost implications for health and social care services. Investment is needed to ensure that voluntary organisations can continue to help alleviate loneliness and improve the quality of life of older people, reducing dependence on more costly services.
- Emotional loneliness is felt when someone misses the companionship of one particular person; often a spouse, sibling or best friend.
- Social loneliness is experienced when we lack a wider social network or group of friends.
As the UK’s population rapidly ages, the issue of acute loneliness and social isolation is one of the biggest challenges facing our society – and it must be addressed, for the sake of both the individuals concerned and the wider community. Health issues arising from loneliness and isolation add pressure on statutory health and social care services. By intervening in this issue, we can improve older people’s quality of life, while limiting dependence on more costly services.
The likelihood of experiencing loneliness is associated with where people live. For example, those who feel lower levels of trust or belonging to their local area report higher levels of loneliness, and those who never speak to neighbours are 43% more likely to feel lonely than those who do (ONS, 2018).
These feelings of loneliness can be damaging to our health, with studies showing it can be as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Food for thought
We realise how important regular, nutritious and well-balanced meals are, so mealtimes are treated as a family event. Residents enjoy locally sourced, freshly cooked food chosen from a varied daily menu, taken in our homely dining areas or in the privacy of their own rooms.
Our on-site chefs and catering staff are always happy to accommodate personal food preferences whilst encouraging the intake of plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
What would life be without the occasional indulgence too? Our homes supply fresh cakes and pastries amongst other specialities, with light snacks are available 24 hours a day in between nutritious meals.
Our founding principle at Abbeyfield was to banish the loneliness felt by many older people and we are proud to offer our residents an active, sociable living environment.
In our homes, there’s always something to do with games, quizzes, reading and entertainment, whilst in warmer weather, we organise days out shopping, visiting local places of interest and even the occasional picnic.
Of course, if there’s a birthday to celebrate we love to push the boat out, serving a special tea with cake, decorations and fun for all, with each Abbeyfield home having their own unique touch.
At all times, our passionate and highly qualified staff are on hand to help out to ensure every event is an enjoyable and rewarding occasion and they are often supported by our teams local volunteers who share our vision of care and companionship for older people.
We strive to make all residents feel at home from day one. Our aim is to provide a secure, relaxed and homely environment in which their care, well-being and comfort are paramount. Our trained carers work with individuals to ensure privacy and dignity is preserved at all times.
Additionally, in our mission to alleviate loneliness in older people, Abbeyfield have dedicated Activities Coordinators to provide a varied range of social activities, ensuring our residents get the most out of a new chapter in their life.
Each Activities Coordinator gets to know our residents as individuals, involving them at all stages of the activity development process. At Abbeyfield, we also ensure that all our activities are tailored to all physical and mental needs, including those with dementia, in our aim to follow our founder's vision and work to create a sense of belonging.
Alleviating loneliness is at the heart of what we do. It was the vision of our founder, Richard Carr-Gomm, and it is an ethos that still runs through everything we do today. We've always been dedicated to having friendly houses that are well linked to their local community and are committed to enhancing the lives of residents by bringing everyone together for delicious shared meals and plenty of fun activities.
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