I love the music, and as I work with older people, the words that have always resonated with me.
Old man take a look at my life
I’m a lot like you
I need someone to love me
The whole day through
I think everyone wants company and friendship in their life, no matter what age they are. Our new report Isolation: The Emerging Crisis for Older Men looks at how the population is changing and how the number of older men living alone is likely to increase from 911,000 to 1.5 million by 2030. It also looks at how men differ from women in reports of social isolation and loneliness, with some rather alarming statistics. For example, men are 30% more likely to die being recently widowed, while women had no increased chance of dying after their husbands passed away.
Having worked in the community with isolated older people, I’ve seen that the older men are generally less connected with social activities and services, and much more likely to become isolated (this was notable simply from the amount of referrals we received from women compared to men). Other local service providers were also aware of this, so much so that one older people’s charity I worked for started a men’s group, specifically targeted at engaging older men, to great success.
Our report highlights some positive examples of services that have managed to engage men in particular, such as the Men in Sheds project, and also contains interviews with men, detailing what they want from services. It ends with a really good recommendations section broken down to include individuals, voluntary and community sector, and national and local government, and what we can all do to help improve loneliness in older men.
One thing in the report that did shock me is how much loneliness and social isolation affects health. As part of the charity’s partnership team, I work with organisations to help raise awareness of the different services available to isolated older people. A few weeks ago I gave a talk to Retirement Living Officers at a social housing provider. The enthusiasm I received was great - the staff seemed to be really interested in the support Independent Age offers older people to help reduce loneliness.
Everyone agreed that overcoming social isolation was important to the health and wellbeing of the older residents they worked with. In a time of cuts, it was good to hear about services that were still being provided. They all said that our Wise Guide, Healthy, Happy, Connected, which looks at ways to avoid loneliness and isolation in older age, is very valuable, as are our befriending services.
I’ve recently signed up to become a befriending volunteer, and I’m part way through my training. Hopefully, when I’m fully trained I will be matched up with an older man. After all my reading it would be rewarding to make a difference. But, in the meantime, I’ll keep listening to a bit of Neil Young