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SAYS AGE UK Half a million people over the age of 60 usually spend every day alone, with nearly half a million more going at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all, according to new research for Age UK.

The ‘No one should have no one: working to end loneliness amongst older people’ report comes after the launch of the charity’s No one should have no one campaign last month.

The campaign urges people to pledge their support by donating or volunteering with its telephone friendship service or a local Age UK.

The report shares findings from its pilot programme ‘Testing Promising Approaches to Reducing Loneliness’ which explores ways to tackle the loneliness that plagues so many older people.

With 1.2 million older people in England now chronically lonely, the report warns that this is leading to an increased demand on health services, as these people are more likely to develop health conditions such as heart problems, depression and dementia.

88% of older people who often feel lonely experienced a reduction in loneliness following a successful Age UK trial to test a new approach.

The pilot programme enabled eight local Age UKs to develop their outreach through recruiting ‘eyes on the ground’ to identify older people who are experiencing, or at risk of, loneliness and developing co-operative networks with professionals in the voluntary and statutory services.

The pilot used a befriending service to support older, lonely people to reconnect with their community, and helped frontline staff to recognise the characteristics of loneliness.

Age UK staff and volunteers interviewed those experiencing loneliness to discover people’s

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life circumstances, interests and ambitions as well as the kind of support that might help them to feel less lonely.

Some older people were matched with volunteer befrienders, introduced to social groups or other likeminded individuals; others learnt new IT skills to help them stay in touch with friends and family, or were given practical support to help them get back on their feet after a fall or illness.

Being given help to claim benefits such as Attendance Allowance and Pension Credit also helped people feel better and more able to connect with their communities.

Age UK is calling on all MPs to put the issue of loneliness in later life firmly on the Government’s agenda. The charity wants MPs to make the case for investment in local

community resources to support sustainable, long-term action to help lonely older people.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “There is no simple solution for loneliness but our pilot programme shows we really can make a difference and provides crucial insights into how the problem can be successfully overcome.

“We dare to hope that our pilot programme contains the seeds of a new grass-roots movement with the potential to transform lonely older people’s lives for the better. Over the next few years Age UK is committed to further developing and embedding this evidence-based approach to tackling loneliness and to working with everyone who share our goals, locally and nationally, in doing so.”

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