Sadly, there are quite a lot of barriers that can stop older people from living the life they want to live. They might need extra support like information, equipment and support networks, but lack access to them, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Our research showed that these feelings can actually have a huge impact on physical, as well as mental health. Shockingly, a lack of social connections can increase the risk of mortality by up to 26 per cent. When you consider that there are 200,000 older people in the UK who haven’t had a conversation with friends or family for more than a month, it’s undeniable that something has to be done.
Over the past five years, we’ve worked hard to develop a robust programme to support thousands of older people at risk of loneliness and isolation. So far, we’ve given more than £2.5 million in funding to projects and charities that work to remove the barriers older people face, giving them better access to the support they need to lead happy, healthy lives. The initiatives take many forms, from befriending clubs to sensory support to, my personal favourite, gardening clubs. We’ve seen some incredibly positive feedback and it’s clear that programmes like these are sorely needed.
We have a rigorous selection process which ensures our grants have the biggest impact where they’re most needed, often using resources like the expertise of our friends at Age UK to pinpoint exactly where our funds should be allocated. We’re so lucky to work with such a diverse range of charity partners – all of us united by our aim of eradicating loneliness and isolation in later life. We work with charities of all sizes – from grassroots organisations embedded in communities to national charities with incredible resources. That approach is helping us to provide much-needed lifelines to older people.