It’s almost stating the obvious, but we’re all getting older. Even as I write, I’m a few seconds older than when I started this sentence. Old age is not something we often like to think about, unless it’s in the context of living the dream in retirement, or receiving a letter from Her Majesty on our 100th birthday.
Just for a minute though, imagine being elderly now. Next, imagine yourself without any family or friends to call upon, where ill health or mobility issues mean that even walking to shops to buy the daily essentials is an impossible task. A life where your main companion is the television, or if lucky, a faithful pet.
1.7 million older people in England go for a month without meeting up with a friend
Although it’s not an inevitable part of ageing that we become isolated and lonely, unanticipated life events can increase the likelihood that this happens. Bereavement, serious illness or reducing mobility, can all be a trigger for becoming isolated and feeling lonelier. Perhaps you have a friend, relative or know someone locally that may feel lonely or isolated.
Even if you don’t know someone, there is likely to be someone living nearby in this situation. There are nearly 12 million people aged 65 and above in the UK. 3.8 million individuals over the age of 65 live alone, 2.2 million of whom are over 75.
In 50 years there are projected to be an additional 8.6 million people aged 65 years and over – a population roughly equivalent to the size of London
This is an exceptionally challenging time for many, especially those most at risk of getting the virus including older and vulnerable people, who desperately need as much support as possible right now. Simple actions can make all the difference. A note through the door, a phone call, or for those online, video calls such as on Zoom can reassure an older person that you are thinking of them.
The important thing is keeping in touch and to make sure older people are ok
There has been a surge in older people seeking authoritative information, guidance, emotional reassurance and practical support during the pandemic.
Age UK Bristol has responded to the changing demands on its services in a number of ways. For example, its Coronavirus Support Hub helps older people and their families cope with the impact of coronavirus in Bristol.
The Support Hub provides a range of services for older people via its helpline. This includes practical support (i.e. food shopping orders and delivery), emotional support (i.e. weekly call with Age UK volunteer) and virtual activities (i.e. reading groups and online Tai Chi).
49% of older people (equivalent to over 5 million individuals) say the television or pets are their main form of company
As is the case with the other charities I’m supporting through my Summer Stretch Challenge, Age UK Bristol has launched an emergency appeal. The significant shortfall in donations and spike in demand for its services mean that they need donations to see them through the difficult winter months and beyond.
As a local and independent charity, they rely heavily on donations and legacies from members of the public, without which it would be impossible to continue its vital work.