Telegraph Voices: What can be done to tackle loneliness amongst older people in Sheffield?
A few weekends ago I met a gentleman called George who has recently moved into a retirement village in Sheffield. “I was withering away alone at home” he told me. “I knew I had to do something, but moving here hasn’t quite been what I thought.”
A few weekends ago I met a gentleman called George who has recently moved into a retirement village in Sheffield.
“I was withering away alone at home” he told me. “I knew I had to do something, but moving here hasn’t quite been what I thought.”
I was surprised. Talking to George was a stark reminder that even if someone finds themselves in an environment that has the ingredients to reduce loneliness, what truly matters is the quality of the connections and experiences with others within that environment. Otherwise, individuals can remain lonely in a room full of people.
By the end of the event, George and I had spent 3 happy hours talking with some of the other residents. Before I left I stopped to watch George and his two new friends heading back to their flats together, chit chatting away. Even though they’d lived in the same place for over a month, this was the first time George had made a meaningful connection with other residents, and what a difference it had made.
As a society we know more than ever before about the challenges that impact older people’s experiences of loneliness – transport barriers, health issues, bereavement, confidence hurdles, and a lack of resources, to name just a few! But we also know more than ever about solutions, and that’s why Age Better in Sheffield have recently commissioned projects that specifically work to address these challenges (based on what older people themselves have told us they’d like).
And we’re not the only ones. Sheffield is full of incredible organisations and brilliant people who are working to offer a range of services for older people who are lonely: intergenerational classes at nursing homes, runners who visit older people, community events, lunch club champions, caring neighbours, phone befrienders, I could go on!
Once older people know about the support they can access here in Sheffield, we need to do all we can to ensure that their experiences are meaningful ones – like George’s on that Sunday afternoon. The exciting thing is that most of us have the opportunity to create and nurture connections with people every single day, whatever our ages, so my message would be to seize those opportunities where you can.
Most importantly, for us to make lasting, societal change in our city we need to be thinking about loneliness within everything we do moving forward – not as an afterthought. With that in mind, we’re excited to be working towards making Sheffield an Ageing-Friendly city. If you’d like to be involved, let us know!
Hannah Thornton, Communications and Toolkit Officer – Age Better in Sheffield