By Laura Kilvington, Community Writer
Loneliness is an emotion that we can all experience at some point in our lives and for most of us it’s a fleeting feeling that triggers us to seek companionship, but unfortunately for many people loneliness can be a constant feeling that they are unable to shift. Such isolation can have a huge impact on the quality of people’s lives and health, with research suggesting that constantly feeling lonely is as detrimental to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
One group of people in particular who suffer the most with isolation and loneliness are the elderly, with an estimated 75,000 elderly people said to be struggling alone in Wales. If you take into consideration that a lot of people living alone don’t interact with anyone, then you can imagine the numbers are probably even higher.
There are many reasons a person can experience isolation, but for the elderly these barriers can be harder to overcome. Over recent years cuts to vital services have had a huge impact on older people in the community, including public transport, day centres, and adult social care services. The lack of provision in the community often means that family, and voluntary services are providing the majority of support to our older generation. However, many elderly people don’t have access to either of these support networks making it even harder for them to get the help that they need.
A lot of elderly people have little or no family, with many reporting that their only source of comfort is the television. Many are struggling with bereavement after the loss of a lifelong partner and are finding it hard to adjust to life alone. Another huge obstacle that elderly people face is ill health and limited mobility, making it hard for them to get out and about and be part of their community. Finances can also be a factor with a lot of free and affordable services shutting down and a huge demand for support in the third sector.
As the days get shorter and temperatures begin to plummet, elderly people become increasingly more vulnerable in the Winter months. Colds and flu are rife at this time of year but whilst the majority of us can overcome them with medicine and rest, they can be extremely fatal for older people. The elderly may be reluctant to use their heating due to worrying they won’t be able to afford it and are at increased risk of pneumonia. The fear of slipping and falling in icy conditions can prevent people from venturing out as they usually would, and so in the colder months those struggling with infirmity can often end up confined to their homes.
There are a lot of things we can do as a community to tackle loneliness; You might be thinking there isn’t much you can do but sometimes it’s the little things that can make a big difference. Whether it’s stopping in the street to say ‘hello’ and asking how they are, or popping in for a cuppa and a conversation, these seemingly small gestures can mean the world to someone who is feeling vulnerable and alone. Helping with things such as shopping, ensuring they have access to meals and checking that their home is warm enough are all extremely vital in making sure that elderly people are kept safe throughout the winter months.
Age Connects Cardiff and the Vale in Cardiff do incredibly vital work in the community by providing support services in the local area for people who are aged over 50 or over. Age Connects Cardiff and the Vale is a charitable organisation who rely heavily on the support of volunteers to deliver the many different services that they offer, including good neighbour schemes, advocacy, nail cutting, help with welfare, drop in centres and more.
Volunteering with Age Connects Cardiff and the Vale will not only benefit the people who need it, but it can be beneficial to your own self-development, helping you make friends, increase confidence and learn new skills. Not only will you gain practical skills for life, you will feel much more mentally stimulated. It been scientifically proven that being helpful to others makes us happy, so making someone else’s day a bit brighter can also help improve your own health and wellbeing.
Giving your time is one the greatest gifts you can ever give and so if you are passionate about supporting elderly people in your community and want to know more, why not get in touch with Age Connects Cardiff and the Vale to see how you can make a difference to the lives of others. For more information on volunteering opportunities within the Cardiff and Vale area, please get in touch with Joanne using the details below who will be more than happy to discuss the opportunities available.
Volunteer Development Officer
Telephone: 02922 400 030
For further resources and to find out more about Age Connects Cardiff and the Vale, please visit their website www.ageconnectscardiff.org.uk