Monday 22nd February 2016
AGE AND ISOLATION
We all like some time to ourselves but most of us don’t like to be on our own for too long, even if we don’t like to admit it. It’s the company of others that helps give us that sense of belonging and comfort.
Derek Young of Age Scotland conveyed this point recently when he said “the need for contact is an innate human need in the same way that feeling hungry or thirsty or tired is.”
Sadly, there are too many people who live their lives in loneliness and isolation. This is particularly true of the elderly. Age UK recently reported that 10% of all people over the age of 65 feel lonely all or most of the time.
In its recent inquiry the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee found that age and isolation are significant issues in Scotland that are linked to health problems such as dementia and malnutrition.
During its evidence gathering the committee heard of some of the most extreme cases of isolation including one woman who was so socially isolated she lived without power for months.
The committee rightly concluded that individual citizens, public services and the Scottish Government should take collective responsibility for improving the situation.
It called on the Scottish Government to prioritise loneliness and isolation alongside issues such as poverty and poor housing. The committee also urged the government to adopt a national strategy to tackle the problem.
As part of formulating its strategy, the Scottish Government would do well to learn from a project organised by the Inverclyde Community Trust called ‘Chit Chat’ which aims to reduce social isolation, particularly for elderly people from the Greenock Central and East areas.
I recently had the opportunity to meet the group and heard about the great work they are doing to tackle the issue. I heard positive experiences from elderly people who have participated in the project.
As well as providing an opportunity to socialise and make new friends, it has allowed them to make connections with a wide range of community services supporting their day-to-day wellbeing.
The project has proved to be a huge success. All of the 160 people who have been involved so far have reported an increase in their social circle and improved health and wellbeing.
It is time we brought an end to age and isolation in Scotland and I hope the Scottish Government will act on the committee’s recommendations and support projects like ‘Chit Chat’ so they can go from strength to strength.