More than half a million people over 60 in the UK will spend this Christmas alone. More than half of all people aged 75 and over live by themselves and according to age UK two fifths of older people (about 3.9 million) say the television is their main companion. Some may be very happy and content in their own company, but for many there is a deep felt sense of isolation and loneliness. This sense of isolation tends to be heightened around Christmas time when we are continually bombarded with messages from TV and other sources that this is the time to be together.
It is not just the emotional difficulty of loneliness but there is shown to be a considerable negative effect on health such as an increase in depression and high blood pressure. Research shows that lacking social connections effects our risk of an early death in a way similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Holt-Lunstad, 2010), and is more damaging for us than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity.
Which is why live in care can be so valuable for so many people experiencing loneliness. Having a kind, caring companion can give a new lease of life to those feeling isolated. It also gives a feeling of safety, knowing that someone is there if anything happens. It allows for activities to take place that might not have been possible without a carer, such as being taken out regularly for a coffee, or going for a stroll in a wheelchair. Even the small things such as being able to share a joke on a TV program can help us feel connected and human.
Of course, live in care might not be possible or wanted by everyone. There are many other practical things that can be done to help people feeling lonely. There are some great resources on http://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/ for those who would like to find out more. Or you can read more here about live in care.