Commissioner calls for greater support to prevent loneliness and isolation in Wales
Older people throughout Wales could be at greater risk of loneliness and isolation unless further support is provided to community groups and organisations whose work provides support and reaches out to older people who may be lonely.
That’s the warning from the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales as evidence and data reveals that older people are not getting out and about into their communities and socialising with friends and family in the ways that they were before the pandemic.
This is a cause for concern as loneliness can drastically increase the risk of a range of negative physical and mental health problems, including dementia (50%) stroke (32%) and heart disease (29%). Loneliness and social isolation can also increase the risk of an early death by up to 26%.
The Commissioner’s warning comes as she publishes a new briefing paper which highlights the latest research into the impact of loneliness and examines the issues and challenges created by the pandemic. This includes a finding that usage of the concessionary bus pass in Wales has fallen by around 50% since the pandemic which indicates that a significant number of older people are no longer using bus services to connect them with their communities.
Within her briefing, the Commissioner calls on the Welsh government to provide greater support to community groups and organisations whose work plays a crucial role in protecting older people from loneliness and supporting older people who may be feeling lonely.
The Commissioner is also calling on the Welsh government to review and update its 2020 loneliness strategy to ensure it is still fit for purpose and reflects the post-pandemic issues and challenges being faced by older people and sets out how these will be tackled.
Older people’s Commissioner for Wales Heléna Herklots CBE said:
“We know that loneliness and isolation can have a significant impact on older people’s health and well-being, and I am concerned that the impact of the pandemic is putting many older people at greater risk of feeling lonely or becoming isolated.
“Members of older people’s groups throughout Wales have told me that numbers attending social groups and activities have still not returned to pre pandemic levels, while research into the use of the bus pass in Wales suggests that far fewer older people are now using public transport to get out and about into their communities and do the things that matter to them.
“That’s why it’s crucial that community groups and organisations that do so much to prevent and alleviate loneliness get the support they need so they can continue to deliver crucial outreach work and activities throughout Wales targeted at older people who may be lonely.
“I hope the need for this support is reflected in the Welsh Government’s budget next week, as these organisations play a vital role supporting older people’s health, well-being and independence.
“In the longer term, I’m also calling on the Welsh Government to review its loneliness strategy and update where appropriate to ensure it reflects older people’s needs and experiences following the pandemic.
“This would help to ensure the action being delivered across Wales is still appropriate and effective, and complements other subsequent strategies and plans, such as the Welsh Government’s Strategy for an Ageing Society, and would ensure a renewed focus on tackling loneliness and isolation across government and public services.”
With Christmas approaching, the Commissioner also wants us all to think about the action we could take if someone we know – whether it’s a family member, friend or neighbour – may be feeling lonely.
The Commissioner added:
“Christmas can be a particularly difficult time of year for people who are feeling lonely, which is why I’m encouraging everyone to think about the people we know in our own lives who may be in this situation and reach out to them.
“This could make a big difference to someone who is feeling lonely, so please do reach out if you can.”
ENDSRead the Commissioner's Briefing