The pandemic had a dramatic impact on experiences of loneliness and isolation for people in later life. Bereavement, loss of social contact, increasing anxiety and depression, reduction in confidence and digital exclusion are all issues that have been exacerbated for people in later life and the organisations that support them during the pandemic.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) established the Tackling Loneliness Network to build social connection and tackle loneliness, both during the immediate COVID-19 crisis and longer-term. The Older People’s Task and Finish Group - which makes up part of the DCMS Tackling Loneliness Network - is co-chaired by Independent Age and the Alzheimer’s Society with Zurich Community Trust acting as secretariat. The group is made up of representatives from a range of organisations who care about people in later life including the English Football League Trust, Historic England, British Red Cross, Age UK, Time to Talk Befriending, Chatty Cafe Scheme, Manchester Museum and the Scottish Older People’s Association. The purpose of the group has been to:
• bring together data and insight from members to get a clearer understanding of the cumulative effect of COVID-19 on loneliness and the issues it has brought to light, including how it has affected specific communities, groups or the workforce;
• provide a forum for organisations to assess and share best practice and learning to help other members make better-informed decisions to take new action to build social connection;
• use the learning and insight shared to produce a report outlining recommendations and actions to take forward
This briefing provided to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport provides insight into the resilience of individuals experiencing loneliness and volunteer and organisations tackling loneliness during the pandemic. It also provides recommendations for Government, business and the voluntary sector on how to tackle the immediate impacts of COVID and address the structural factors that affect the experience of people in later life.