Let’s talk about (and fight) loneliness and isolation

 In Community, News

Isolation – Subjective to an individual where isolation is based on feelings, it is often described as loneliness and sadness. Socially, it is seen as the absence of social interactions both on a personal and wider societal level.

This word has many facets associated with it with quantifiable and perceived notions of how it can be defined. One thing that is for certain is that isolation is on the rise, especially amongst older people and it is an issue that cannot be ignored any longer.

Age UK statistics (2019) show that 3.6 million older people in the UK live alone, from which more than 2 million are aged 75 and over. 1.9 million of these older people often feel ‘ignored’ or ‘invisible’. With east London boroughs Tower Hamlets, Newham and Islington showing high propensity for social exclusion amongst older people (GLA, 2015).

It is key to note that in most cases isolation is the beginning, with these feelings of loneliness and lacking social contact contributing to detrimental health issues impacting both physical and mental wellbeing.

ELBA, with funding from the National Lottery Community Fund are working to lessen the impact of isolation amongst residents living in east London. We have identified that boroughs in this area continues to measure highly on the UK Indices of Multiple Deprivation with older people remaining as one of the most vulnerable; Tower Hamlets for example has the highest level of elderly people living in poverty within the UK. This is crucial to note with the big city firms within Canary Wharf, being based in Tower Hamlets highlighting this divide and opportunity for businesses to support those who are vulnerable around them.

We have been speaking to the older community members directly about isolation to understand it from their perspective. Some key quotes taken from this are:

‘What can be worse than being alone? Who do you talk to if you have any troubles? Who do you tell?’

‘Makes you feel sad, that’s what it does, makes you feel sad. It’s all your life is giving you back after years.’

ELBA are encouraging businesses to contribute and weigh in on the dialogue surrounding isolation and joining our efforts to reduce this impact. Whether that be through forums to initiate discussions, hosting events to encourage intergenerational mixing and socialisation or aligning CSR strategies and encouraging volunteers to take an active role in reducing the impact of isolation.

In November, we launched the project with an afternoon tea party at the Financial Ombudsman Service, inviting three community organisations and their service users along to network, learn about the project and socialise. Guests who attended had amazing feedback further highlighting this need to engage with them in different ways:

“…The welcome you gave us, wonderful and warm, was appreciated by everyone… our members appreciated your hospitality and companionship… The icing on the cake was the band and several of us enjoyed showing off our dancing skills, letting you know us oldies are “alive and kicking” and still know how to enjoy a knees up! So, we send you our warmest hugs and our sincere thanks for a happy and memorable afternoon. Your efforts were very impressive and will remain in our memory for a long time to come.”

With the help of businesses, we want to make an even larger impact and use different methods to interact and socialise with the older community; whether that be creatively through an artistic medium, delivering workshops tailored to the age group, creating a documentary/book/project to raise awareness and capture the enriching lives/stories the older generation have experienced or something else entirely.

For more information on how ELBA can support your company in working towards reducing isolation, or if you have an idea to reduce impact, please email: info@elba-1.org.uk  / smera.nadeem@elba-1.org.uk.

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