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There are lots of ways you can do your bit to help lonely or socially isolated elderly people in your community. You'll find you reap health benefits, too, as well as the person you're helping.
Volunteering for an organisation that supports older people is a key way of helping a lonely or socially isolated older person. But a simple friendly chat or phone call can make all the difference, too.
Evidence suggests that giving your time in this way could be as valuable to you as the person you support. It's likely to boost your self-esteem and sense of purpose. And helping others takes your mind off your own problems for a while.
Read about how helping others can be incredibly rewarding.
It's not always easy to know who or how to help. A good start is simply to stop and talk to an elderly neighbour if you pass them in the street. You could ask them if they need any help with tasks such as shopping, posting letters, dog-walking or offering to accompany them to various activities or doctors' and hospital appointments.
Seize the opportunity to introduce yourself to an elderly neighbour when you see them. Ask if you can help in any way. Do you know an older person who lives alone, rarely leaves the house, has recently suffered a bereavement, is in poor health, disabled, has sight or hearing loss, or doesn't seem to have close family living nearby? They're the ones who are most likely to appreciate this type of contact.
Sign the NHS Choices Winter Friends pledge to look out for an isolated elderly friend or neighbour this winter. Once you sign the pledge, you'll receive regular email tips on how to help.
Volunteer for organisations that support older people. These often offer "befriending" schemes for isolated elderly people, and rely on volunteers for one-to-one contact as a telephone "buddy", visitor or driver, or hosting social events for groups.
Your contribution could be as simple as a weekly telephone call to an isolated older person or extend to regular home visits for a chat and to help with shopping and so on, driving an elderly person to a social event, or even hosting coffee mornings for groups of elderly people.
You can find more information on befriending an older person from these organisations:
Read about how volunteering is good for your health.
Get more ideas for how to volunteer in your area.
Older people are especially vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation – and it can have a serious effect on health. But there are ways to overcome loneliness, even if you live alone and find it hard to get out.
Hundreds of thousands of elderly people are lonely and cut off from society in this country, especially those over the age of 75.
In England, 51% of all people over 75 live alone and 5 million older people say the television is their main form of company.
People can become socially isolated for a variety of reasons such as getting older, weaker, no longer being the hub of their family, leaving the workplace, disability or illness, and the deaths of spouses and friends.
Whatever the cause, it’s shockingly easy to be left feeling alone and vulnerable, which can lead to depression and a serious decline in physical health and well-being.
Someone who is lonely probably also finds it hard to reach out. There is a stigma surrounding loneliness and older people tend not to ask for help because they have too much pride.
So it's important to remember that loneliness can – and does – affect anyone, of any age.
Here are ways for older people to connect with others and feel useful and appreciated again.
Grab every chance to smile at others or begin a conversation – for instance with the cashier at the shop or the person next to you in the GP waiting room. If you’re shy or not sure what to say, try asking people about themselves.
If you’re feeling down and alone, it’s tempting to think that no-one wants to visit you. But often, friends, family and neighbours will appreciate receiving an invitation to come and spend some time with you.
If you prefer someone else to host, Contact the Elderly is a charity that holds regular free Sunday afternoon tea parties for people over-75 who live alone. You will be collected from your home and driven to a volunteer host’s home for the afternoon. Apply online or call Contact the Elderly on 0207 240 0630.
Having a chat with a friend or relative over the phone can be the next best thing to being with them. Or you can call the free Silver Line (a helpline for older people recently set up by Esther Rantzen) on 0800 4 70 80 90; Independent Age on 0845 262 1863 or Age UK on 0800 169 6565 or Friends of the Elderly on 0207 259 0154 to receive a weekly or fortnightly friendship call from a volunteer who enjoys talking to older people.
Independent Age’s Live Wire scheme gives you the chance to join a telephone bookclub whereby every four to six weeks a group of about six people discuss their chosen book (or film) over the phone (they call you, so there is no cost involved).
Community Network brings people together on the phone each week. To join or start a telephone group call 0207 923 5263
If your friends and family live far away, a good way to keep in touch, especially with grandchildren, is by using a personal computer or tablet (hand held computer). You can share emails and photos with family and friends, have free video chats using services such as Skype, Face Time or Viber and make new online ‘friends’ or reconnect with old friends with social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, and website forums.
A tablet computer can be especially useful if you can’t get around very easily as you can sit with it on your knee or close to hand and the screen is clear and bright. A sponge tip stylus pen or speech recognition may help if the touchscreen is difficult for arthritic hands or fingers with poor circulation.
Libraries and community centres often hold regular training courses for older people to learn basic computer skills – as well as being a good place to meet and spend time with others in their own right.
These will vary according to where you live, but the chances are you’ll have access to a singing or walking group, book clubs, bridge, bingo, quiz nights and faith groups. Not to mention local branches of national organisations that hold social events such as the Women’s Institute, Rotary Club and Contact the Elderly. The Silver Line helpline (Freephone 0800 328 8888) can let you know what’s going on in your local area.
It can help you feel less lonely if you plan the week ahead and put things in your diary to look forward to each day, such as a walk in the park, going to a local coffee shop, library, sports centre, cinema or museum. Independent Age have a guide called ‘Healthy, happy, connected – support and advice for older people living alone’ which can help you find free groups and classes in your area. Download the guide or order a free print copy by calling 020 7605 4225 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t wait for people to come and see you – travel to visit them. One advantage of being older is that public transport is better value. Bus travel is free for over-60s across the UK. And for longer distances, train and coach travel can be cheap too, especially if you book in advance, online and use a senior rail card.
The Royal Voluntary Service can put you in touch with volunteers who provide free transport for older people with mobility issues or who live in rural areas with limited public transport.
Use the knowledge and experience you’ve gained over a lifetime to give something back to your community. You’ll get lots back in return, such as new skills and confidence and, hopefully, new friends too.
There are endless volunteering opportunities which relish the qualities and skills of older people – such as patience, experience and calmness. Examples are Home-Start, Sure Start, helping in a local charity shop or hospital, the Citizens Advice Bureau and school reading programmes.
Read more about how to get started as a volunteer.
Thinking of signing the NHS Choices Winter Friends pledge to look in on an older friend or neighbour this winter? Already signed and wondering what to do next? Here are answers to some of the common questions people have about the pledge.
If you have a neighbour who you think might need some help but you don't know them very well, why not take this opportunity to call in on them? There are lots of benefits to being part of a close-knit community and knowing your neighbours even if they don't need any help.
There are also more formal ways you can go about helping an older person through a charity or local volunteer group.
The following organisations are all involved in helping older people and have opportunities for volunteers.
You could also contact your nearest Volunteer Centre who should be able to tell you about volunteering opportunities in your local area. To find your nearest Volunteer Centre, use this search tool on Volunteering England's website.
You can call NHS 111 at any time of the day or night for health advice and information.
You can also call the person’s GP for advice or to make an appointment.
If the person you’re looking in on needs help with daily living, you may want to talk to them about getting more help. You can call their local authority’s adult social services department and ask them to carry out a community care assessment. They are obliged to do so.
Find out more about social care.
This is the format of all pledges on the Pledgebank website that is being used to make the pledge available online. We want to get as many people as possible to sign up, and if 100,000 people help a friend or neighbour it could make a real difference. The important thing is that people act on their pledges and look out for their friends and neighbours this winter. We'll be doing all we can to support you.
The Silver Line (0800 4 70 80 90) offers free, confidential advice, information and friendship to older people.
93 Smith Avenue
Tel: 01274 425600
Fax: 01274 425610
Opening Times & Google Map
Westbourne Green Community Health
50 Heaton Road
Tel: 01274 425600
Fax: 01274 425610
Opening Times & Google Map
Royds Healthy Living Centre
20 Ridings Way
Off The Cresent
Tel: 01274 321888
Fax: 01274 322029
Opening Times & Google Map
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