Figures from Age Cymru show that 75,000 older people in Wales feel lonely or isolated. Almost half of those surveyed said the television or a pet was their main companion.
The National Assembly’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee has begun an inquiry looking how this issue affects older people in Wales. It will look at what support is available for older people and what more can be done to tackle the issue. The Committee will also look at the extent to which initiatives to combat loneliness and isolation experienced by other groups may also help older people.
There is evidence to suggest that loneliness and isolation can have a significant impact on physical and mental health and may be a cause of depression, sleep issues, stress, and even heart problems.
It’s therefore possible that preventing loneliness and isolation could reduce the demand and pressure on health and social care services.
Loneliness and isolation are not the same thing – each can be experienced without the other. A person may feel lonely in a crowded room, isolated in a rural community or even vice versa.
The problem of loneliness and isolation has already been recognised by the Minister for Social Services and Public Health as an important public health issue, while the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales has made tackling the problem a priority.
The Welsh Government already has a set of indicators to check its progress towards the achieving its ‘well-being goals’ one of which is to monitor the ‘percentage of people who are lonely’.
The Committee will be looking at this complex subject and the wide range of services which can have an impact on it such as health, social care and community services, transport and even internet access.
Chair of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee, Dai Lloyd AM:
“Isolation and loneliness can affect anyone, employed or retired, living in a town, city or the countryside.
We already know the issues affect a high number of older people. Tackling the problem could both help individuals feel better and could also mean less demand on our health and social care services.
If you or someone you know is, or has been, affected by issues of loneliness or isolation, or you are involved in work to support them, then we would like to hear about your experiences and what ideas you think could help.”
If you would like to contribute to the inquiry you can find more information, including how, on the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee pages on the National Assembly’s website.