Figures released by Age UK revealed a million over-65s now say they are lonely often or all of the time, compared with 770,000 last year. And two in five now say their main form of company is either their pet or their TV.

More people become cut off from society as they retire from work and lose their independence through disability. For many lonely older people, the underlying cause of loneliness is a lack of purpose in a society which has written them off as too old to contribute. Their situation hasn’t been helped by funding cuts brought in by the Coalition which have forced many of the local services which help older people stay connected, such as lunch clubs, to close.

Don’t forget that Independent Age runs a number of befriending services, including one-to-one befriending and telephone discussion groups. To find out more, call us on freephone 0800 319 7689. But to truly tackle loneliness among older people, we need to provide not just befriending services, but also to adjust our attitudes to later life and recognise that older people have skills and experience that we should be seeking out rather than shunning.

With that in mind, we relished the number of stories this week about inspirational older people. Take for example, Ginger Baker, former Cream member and the “world’s greatest drummer”. He returned to his drumming ways this week, playing a gig at the Islington Academy in London. “Everybody’s on at me to play Toad,” he said, referring to the maniacal five-minute drum solo from Cream’s 1966 debut album. “But it’s not on,” he retorted, according to a review in the Guardian, “I’m 75 and I’m a ****ing cripple”. So, perhaps he didn’t quite reach the intensity of his Cream days, but by all accounts gave an impressively powerful performance nonetheless.   

We also fell in love with 98-year-old Hildegard Gigl (pronounced giggle) who took over running the fitness classes in her retirement home in the States when their regular instructor left. Hildegard, who is not only the instructor, but also the oldest in her group, however shuns regular fitness equipment relying on Campbell’s soup tins to get the pensioners toned instead.

Finally, we take a trip to Italy, where an unnamed older lady was caught on camera showing off her impressive keepy-uppy skills with a football. Papers all over Italy have reportedly been left scrambling to try and find the lady, known only as “la nonnina” (granny).

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Loneliness

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