Isolation and ageing in the UK
What does the future of community cohesion look like? How far are boys falling behind when it comes to literacy? These are just a couple of the topics that we have been looking at through our work on future trends.
Since autumn 2013, we’ve been publishing a variety of these different Foresight reports to generate discussion and inform the planning of our future programmes.
Our new report – ‘Ageing in the UK’ – has just been published and looks at our ageing population, the challenges this poses to different services and how the projects we fund now and in the future can offer the best support.
The number of local authorities where more than a quarter of residents are over 65 will leap up a huge 245% by 2022.
While the increase in longevity is a good thing, wellbeing amongst older people declines slightly after 75 and declines much more sharply after 80. At the same time, loneliness has been found to increase amongst older people with illnesses that cause them limitations.
The impact of loneliness
On the topic of loneliness, it’s very much a gendered issue and more prevalent amongst women (with almost half of older women reported to have felt lonely at some point). The impact of loneliness has impacts far beyond mental health, with those experiencing isolation five times more likely to die prematurely.
Loneliness and dementia
Isolation is also disproportionately higher amongst those suffering from dementia. As with isolation, women are much more likely to suffer from dementia. By 2051, the number of dementia suffers will rise by over 100% while there’s evidence that suggests the risk of Alzheimer’s doubles amongst people experiencing loneliness.
Volunteering and digital technology are two of the key tools to help combat isolation and its resulting impacts. Volunteering is a powerful way to build strong social ties and alleviate loneliness. While there are strong number of women over 80 volunteering, men are under represented. Older people are also accessing the internet as much as young people, but more like to use it mainly for emailing and banking. Almost eight out of 10 over-65s use a computer once a week. As with volunteering, using computers and access to the internet helps alleviate loneliness amongst older people and reduces the impact of depression.
Share your comments
Over the next few days, we’ll be looking at some of the projects we’ve funded that are supporting older people through volunteering and digital inclusion. Why not get in touch with us on Twitter or Facebook if you know a great project we’re funding that’s helping older people or what you think needs to be done to help combat isolation.