A nationwide home care company has uncovered worrying statistics about the impact of lockdown on the UK’s loneliness epidemic in older people and highlighted the need for greater support as restrictions ease this summer.
The research, conducted in May by Radfield Home Care, sought to understand and raise awareness of the experiences of older people during the various national lockdowns.
In a survey of over 250 over 60s throughout the UK, almost half of all respondents (45%) said they had experienced significant feelings of loneliness during the pandemic and as a result, a further 4 in 10 had also experienced low mood, while 2 in 10 had struggled with anxiety and 1 in 10 had battled depression.
“We already know there’s a loneliness epidemic in the UK, particularly amongst those in their 70s and 80s who live alone, but lockdown has significantly compounded this problem,” said Alex Green, Director of Radfield Home Care.
“As a home care provider, we have genuine concerns about who will be looking out for older people as life returns to normal. Many of us are now getting back to our workplaces and our busy lives, but older people who’ve had support from family or neighbours may feel even more alone and disconnected as a result.
“For these people, loneliness can have profound effects on physical and mental health, as well as life expectancy. That’s a gap we’re working very hard to bridge, but it’s absolutely essential that the whole of society, including the UK government, plays a part in supporting our older population.”
The research also found that 73% of participants were nervous about the UK’s planned easing of restrictions on 21stJune. 53% of respondents said they had concerns about infection rates rising when lockdown lifts, while just over 10% were worried about interacting with others and 8% feared visiting supermarkets, shops and restaurants.
“I think we need to recognise that a lot of older people have been shielding for such a long time that it’s become the norm and feels safe. It’s understandable that they’d have concerns about getting back out into the community, and it’s important that they take things at a pace that feels comfortable for them,” added Green.
“However, continuing to provide that support will be a lifeline for older people as restrictions lift, so we encourage people to regularly check in on family members and neighbours through calls, notes and doorstep chats, or perhaps even offer to help collect food or prescriptions if possible.
“It might not seem much, but even the smallest interactions can play a huge role in helping isolated, vulnerable and lonely people to feel more connected. No one should ever feel alone, and we hope that together, we can start to make a real difference for those who need it most.”