One million older people in the UK regularly go an entire month without speaking to anyone. Two in five elderly people rely on their television or pet as their main source of companionship, whilst an eighth of pensioners feel cut off from society. Lonely people are more likely to develop a range of diseases, leading a potential public health disaster unless more is done for elderly neighbours and relatives. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK has utterly failed to deal with this issue, describing it as a “national shame”. (Age UK)
But this is Martock, do we have a problem?
The 2011 Census data shows us that over 620 residents in Martock Parish live on their own – 13% of our population and 30% of our households. In the north east of our community, these figures rise to 17% and 36% respectively. From the public consultation for the Our Place Martock project, which concentrated on this area, social isolation came across as a key issue, even for those who are in receipt of social care or who live in sheltered housing, The average time that a care worker spends per visit is now less than 15 minutes. This problem is often made worse by mobility issues, lack of transport, few organised social activities for the elderly and those which are held mostly taking place in the centre of the village or outside of it. Many older people will have moved to the South West because it is an attractive place to live, but are now isolated from their families. Many working age children will have moved away to find higher education or employment and therefore are less able to care for their aged parents.
Furthermore, social isolation is not restricted to the elderly or necessarily to those living on their own. We know from our work with young people in the community that many of them feel isolated for a number of reasons, and for anyone isolation can be made worse by health issues, particularly mental health, or lack of self-confidence and feelings of inadequacy.
So what are we going to do about it?
One of the aims of the Our Place Martock project is to tackle social isolation within our community. We can do this in a number of ways – by working more closely with housing, health and care services, by offering support to carers, by providing more social activities closer to people’s homes or by improving local transport. But we also want to set up a befriending service through which volunteers offer some of their time to those who feel isolated, both for companionship and also to help them make changes in their lives. This might be through telephone conversations, face to face befriending or work in groups. Volunteers will be trained and supported by a professional coordinator, giving up as much of their time as each is prepared to offer.
If you are interested in getting involved, would like to help or want to find out more, please get in touch with Tracey Smith on 07539 754413, email@example.com or contact us via this website.