Loneliness and isolation in older people
The great news is that many of us are living longer than ever before. In the Stirling area, this means that our population is getting older. While good news, an aging population brings with it specific challenges that, as a Council, we need to be ready to meet.
That's why we've set up the LinkAge Stirling project. Aimed at local residents aged 55 and over, we want to find out about the experiences of our older population today and understand what we could do better to help meet their needs. This will inform future activity and help us meet our aim of making the Stirling area a great place to grow older.
The challenges of an aging population
'Old age doesn't come alone' as the saying goes. While many of our elderly residents will enjoy good health and an active social life, older people have been shown to be more at risk from loneliness and social isolation.
Over half a million older people in the UK go a week without seeing anyone.
Social isolation is a measure of the number of family, friends and acquaintances, as well as the frequency of our social interactions.
Social isolation is affected by physical isolation, which is more common in rural areas. Some parts have some of the longest drive and public transport times to key services such as the GP surgery or Post Office in Scotland. Getting out and about can also become more of a challenge due to health or mobility issues.
The health impacts of loneliness are as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Loneliness is a negative emotional state that occurs when we are unhappy with the quality or quantity of our social relationships. Loneliness is known to contribute to a higher incidence of mental and physical health problems in individuals. As we get older, we are more likely to experience periods of loneliness.
Loneliness and social isolation often occur together, however a person can feel lonely even when surrounded by people.
LinkAge Stirling Pilot Project
We are setting up a pilot in North Rural Stirling to learn more about the experiences and needs of our older population. We have chosen this area because:
- 1 in 5 of the population in North Rural Stirlingshire is currently 65 or older
- By 2032 it is projected that nearly 1 in 3 of population in the area will be 65 or over
- The area has some of the longest drive and public transport times in Scotland to access key services such as GP surgeries or the Post Office
The project aims to
1 - Create strong ties between the older population, the council and the local communities.
A dedicated team will be at work to help identify people that might be at risk of loneliness or social isolation, and personally discuss with them what activities are on offer.
We will also be at hand with any other support needed, such as suggestions on how to reach a group or an event, or getting people in touch with the organisers.
A list of all groups and activities available in each area will also be created, to make it easy to find something that suits each person’s needs and interests.
2 – Inform the council on the experiences, needs and desires of the ageing population
Part of the project is to understand older people’s experiences living in rural Stirling. We want older people to feel they are a valued part of society, but sometimes there are barriers that might prevent them from taking part in the life of the community.
We want to hear older people’s opinions of the services currently offered by the council and other organisations, and what improvements they would like to see.
With your views on the matter, we can ensure that Stirling continues to become a welcoming and supporting place for an ageing population.
If you live in this area and are aged 55 or older, we'd love to hear from you. We are currently issuing a short questionnaire to eligible residents in North Rural Stirling.
We would love to hear your views both on your experience today and what support and services you think would make a big difference to your life going forward.
To find out more, contact the LinkAge team or call 01786 233071.