Isolation & Loneliness (Nov 2012)

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What is loneliness and isolation?

Loneliness is “an individual’s subjective valuation of his or her social participation or social isolation and is the outcome of …having a mismatch between the quantity and quality of existing relationships on the one hand and relationship standards on the other” [Perlman and Peplau, 1981]

Social isolation is related but different to loneliness. It is an objective state.

Did you know?

  • 6-13% of older people say they feel very or always lonely
  • 6% of older people leave their house once a week or less
  • 17% of older people are in contact with family, friends and neighbours less than once a week, and 11% are in contact less than once a month
  • Over half (51%) of all people aged 75 and over live alone (ONS, 2010)
  • Almost 5 million older people say that the television is their main form of company

Case study: Restoring confidence and providing friendship

When Maud’s life-long friend died she fell into a downward spiral of depression. Margie had been like a sister to her: they had lived together for many years and went everywhere together. With no other friends or family to spend time with, Maud was left with an empty void she could not fill.
Maud remained isolated in her home for a three-year period. ‘When Margie died, I felt that I didn’t want to live anymore and fell into a rut, not wanting to go out,’ she explains.
Just over two years ago, Maud spotted an advert for Contact the Elderly and decided to apply to become a guest. She spoke to a staff member who explained how the tea parties worked and he arranged for a volunteer to pick Maud up for her first tea party a couple of weeks later.

When the Sunday afternoon arrived, however, Maud was nervous about attending the tea party and was unsure about leaving her home. But Maud found the courage to go and ‘has never looked back since’, she says.
The group setting has enabled her to widen her social circle and form new friendships. Maud adds: ‘Contact the Elderly has changed my life. I feel like I have a whole new set of friends to talk to. It’s wonderful.’

SGNL - Issue 4
South Gloucestershire Dignity Network – 4th Edition – Dec 2012 Newsletter