When research from the Campaign to End Loneliness revealed that loneliness has a negative impact equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day people started to really take the problem of loneliness seriously. And, of course, older people are much more likely to experience loneliness. In today’s world many older people live miles, and sometimes continents, away from their children. Many people don’t have any family, and when you get to a certain age your friendship network start to dwindle too. At Home & Company we’ve been constantly surprised by how many people we come into contact with who have no family to help them navigate older age and help them to get the best out of life.
For gregarious types it feels like the UK is pretty good at organising daytime activities and clubs for older adults. Your local Age UK branch (you can ring the national advice line free of charge on 0800 678 1602 or visit the website to find your nearest branch https://www.ageuk.org.uk) will be a good starting point as they often run activities themselves and will have a good database of who else in their area has classes or events that you can join.
Not everyone is a ‘groupie’ and many of us naturally prefer one to one communication. In addition, various aspects of older age such as bad eyesight and hearing can make taking part in groups frustrating and hard work! Being in a care home doesn’t necessarily stop you from feeling lonely and isolated. Just the fact that you have other people sat in a room with you doesn’t mean you don’t crave someone to talk to who is there just for you.
case study – we all need a friend
Mrs S was living in a care home when we were first introduced. She had a variety of health problems and it was felt that a care home was the best option. Mrs S had nothing in common with other residents, she was a little younger and quite an eccentric sort, and unfortunately had no family or friends to visit. She was highly intelligent, very literary and brimming with quotes and little-known facts. But she was also highly anxious. If small things went wrong in the day they would be pored over and quickly become fixations. The care consultant who brought Home & Company in said to Mrs S “You’ve got a calendar on the wall. I think you need a few things on it”. We matched Mrs S with someone from the team who was very gentle and encouraging, to visit Mrs S twice a week, initially just companionship visits to get to know one another, and then building up to walks and trips out if things went well. Our team member was also sure to write on Mrs S’s calendar when she would be coming next, and was always punctual so that no unnecessary anxiety built up. Over 7 years later we are still visiting Mrs S twice a week for trips out, sometimes just a drive and a look at the sea or countryside, sometimes a visit to a café for a proper coffee and slab of cake. On special occasions there are trips to the theatre, cinema and posh restaurants too. Being able to build a trusted relationship and feel there is someone in the world who you matter to and who knows you, worts and all, just can’t be underestimated. Mrs S will always live with an element of anxiety, but her general wellbeing has improved dramatically over the years.
Home & Company provides companionship to many people living in their own homes or in care homes. Do give us a ring if you think we can help.