'Housing organisations all have a role to play to tackle loneliness and isolation.'
Erosh chief executive, Rebecca Mollart, explores what housing organisations can do to tackle loneliness and isolation.
Isn’t there more than enough written about loneliness and social isolation amongst older people?
You would think so wouldn’t you especially as loneliness and social isolation are increasing along with our older population? However, although there is a growing body of evidence about the role older people’s housing plays in tackling loneliness and social isolation, there is a lack of practical guidance for housing providers and those who work with older people.
Erosh’s new guide on loneliness and social isolation, which we will launch next month, consolidates some of this evidence, highlights the positive role sheltered and retirement housing plays in reducing loneliness and social isolation amongst all older people in communities, and includes good practice guidance for those who support older people who are, or are at risk of, loneliness and social isolation in any setting. It deliberately focuses on practical advice and case studies which effectively demonstrate the role sheltered and retirement housing organisations play in preventing and addressing loneliness and social isolation.
Ignore it at our peril
Not only do housing providers need to address loneliness and/or social isolation to comply with policy frameworks, such as the Welsh Government National Indicators which refer to the percentage of people who are lonely, but the impact is too significant to be ignored. Loneliness is associated with (in alpha order!) ……. alcohol abuse, blood pressure, dementia, depression, diabetes, heart problems, insomnia, mental health, physical health, smoking, stress, and strokes! And… people who are socially isolated are more likely to visit their GP, more likely to visit A & E, and more likely to go into care! If this doesn’t convince you how important this issue is, nothing will!
So, what can we do?
Quite a lot! By using a range of specific risk factors, at a strategic level housing organisations can put in place systematic methods for identifying people who are or are at risk of being lonely and/or socially isolated, and can put in place formal interventions to prevent and address loneliness and/or social isolation. At a front-line staff level, those supporting or who come into contact with older people can help to identify individuals who are or are at risk of being lonely and/or socially isolated; can implement appropriate formal interventions; and can signpost older people to other sources of support.
Any approaches to addressing loneliness and/or social isolation amongst older people must be: timely; integrated into support planning, needs and risk assessment processes; and above all be person centred to develop effective solutions which are tailored around individual needs, aspirations and preferences; and which reflect people’s lives, careers, skills and experiences, and interests.
Rebecca Mollart is the chief executive of Erosh and will be speaking at TAI 2018. For more information click here.