Funding the fight against loneliness in older people

Things that are baffling me today:

  1. Someone thought it was a good idea to create 8 The Fast and Furious movies.
  2. In the Middle ages in Europe, animals that ‘broke the law’ were tried in court.
  3. At a time when there are more mechanisms for social connectivity than ever before, there are around one million older people in the UK who identify as ‘lonely’.

Here at NPC, we have just finished working on some research on the older people sector to inform the charitable giving of a philanthropist client. We focused specifically on social isolation and loneliness, as well as housing—analysing the need that exists in these areas and the different interventions addressing this need.

Not only is loneliness terrible in its own right, its consequences are far reaching.

As the population ages, the number of older people who are lonely is growing. Not only is loneliness terrible in its own right, its consequences are far reaching.

Some experts claim that 1 in 10 GP appointments are attributable to loneliness (of all age groups), costing the NHS £1.53bn per year. Others have stated that a lack of social connections is comparable, in terms of detriment to health, to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Housing is also a difficult area to navigate. On top of the complexities at play in the well reported housing crisis as a whole, older people face unique housing challenges. Many experience changing levels of mobility, and are living in homes that are in dire need of adaptations to accommodate this. Maintaining a home can become more difficult in older age as loved ones are no longer around to help out, and many have reduced incomes and mobility. Many older people are living in poor conditions as a result. Being unable to afford adequate heating, for example, affects 1 million people over the age of 60 in the UK.

There are plenty of people working to address the need in this area. Many different types of services for older people exist, including befriending, information and advice, intergenerational initiatives, and even monthly Sunday tea parties.

As it stands, however, the older people sector is receiving just 2% of charitable funding in the UK. Many interventions can show the positive impact of their individual approaches. But there is a real need for investment into the evaluation of these services so that we have access to robust data around what works more broadly.

Try as I might to forget about the inexorable arrow of time, much of the population will at some point be facing these challenges. It’s promising to see funders—such as the ones we’ve been working with at NPC—looking to address these prevalent issues. As the population continues to age, investment in this space will be more necessary than ever.

Unlike the Fast and the Furious 9. Nobody needs that.

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