Blog – combating loneliness

Cllr Gerard Woodhouse

The Local Government Association (LGA) recently launched the Combating Loneliness campaign to highlight the problem of loneliness among our older people and the detrimental effect this can have on mental and physical health.

The statistics make bleak reading, revealing that loneliness increases the risk of developing dementia by 64% and doubles the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or a disability.  It can cause higher blood pressure and depression with a higher rate of mortality which is more damaging than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.  Loneliness is also much worse in poorer urban areas, in people who live alone and in rented accommodation.  Studies also show that lonely people make more use of health and social care services.

With estimates that over 1 million people aged over 65 are often or always lonely, it increases the pressure on council and health services through referrals to adult social care services, GP and hospital visits and early entry into residential or nursing care.  With the average age in this country age increasing and more of us living longer, loneliness is not just a problem our older people experience; it’s an issue we could all face.

The LGA campaign focussed on the excellent schemes taking place in WHO Age Friendly Accredited cities such as Belfast, Bristol and Manchester.   In Liverpool, we are working hard with partners to provide activities and events for our older people to combat loneliness, such as cabaret afternoons and holidays to stop social isolation, shopping trips so people have independence, buddy schemes for those who have lost their confidence, training and craft opportunities and bridging the digital divide.  We are also hosting an Older People Conference on 7th March at the Devonshire Hotel to hear the views of our older people and also begin the process of gaining WHO Age Friendly Accreditation to recognise Liverpool is the best city to live and grow old in, as pledged by The Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson.

It’s thanks to our partnership working with community groups, the Older People Forum, social landlords, local charities and local businesses that we are able to support activities for our older people.  Not only has the city council had to contend with the devastating £329m Government cuts since 2011, but the £8 million pound cuts to public health announced in 2015 are having a massive impact on how the council can continue to deliver even the essential adult social services.  Of the £300m Relief Fund recently announced by Greg Clark MP, Communities Secretary, Liverpool is not going to receive one penny to help ease the pain of these cuts on our services.

Yet, we will continue to do what we do, not just to gain WHO Age Friendly Accreditation or to ease the pressure on services, but to ensure our all our residents are living in the inclusive communities they deserve.

If you would like more information on the schemes taking place in Liverpool or the Older People Conference, please e-mail me at gerard.woodhouse@liverpool.gov.uk

Gerard Woodhouse

Mayoral Lead of Older People and Age Friendly City