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Older people can combat loneliness by making social connections

New research from the Campaign To End Loneliness and YouGov found that more than half (54%) of British adults feel it has been a long time since they made a new friend or a valued connection.

49% say their busy lives stop them from making connections with others – with 63% citing work and 65% blaming chores as the main reasons. The research also showed almost nine in 10 UK adults believe that small moments of connecting, such as making small talk on public transport or smiling at people can help tackle loneliness.

Gillian Girlings, Chief Executive of Girlings Retirement Rentals, says these figures highlight that loneliness is affecting many adults and older people are particularly vunerable.

According to Gillian, “The Campaign To End Loneliness highlights that up to one million people over 65 years old say they always or often feel lonely. Sadly, statistics also show that lonely people are more likely to develop dementia and heart disease, with subsequent negative impact on the health and social services as well as the quality of life for the individual.

“One way that older people can reduce loneliness is by living in a retirement community which offers social opportunities and the chance to mix with people of similar ages. Many of our residents say this was one of the main reasons they chose to rent in one of our retirement developments.

“Our residents have access to communal lounges and gardens where they can enjoy a cup of tea and a chat with their neighbours and in most developments regular social activities, events and outings are organised. As this research highlights, making connections is a great way for people to combat loneliness.”

Last year a Demos report in conjunction with retirement house builder, McCarthy & Stone suggested lessons about how to tackle loneliness can be learnt from the friendship and companionship that is found in retirement housing developments.

One Girlings’ resident enjoying the social side of renting in a retirement development is Jean Harrington, who is 74 years old and from Clacton-on-Sea. Jean has been living on her own since her husband died and she was often lonely.

Jean says, “Finding this property meant I could continue living in Clacton on Sea where I have enjoyed living for 20 years. The council pay half my rent, so I can afford to live here comfortably and the fact that I can stay as long as I want was one of the key attractions.”

“The residents are really friendly and I play bingo twice a week with them. I also go on some of the outings, which are always good fun. Having people around that I can do activities with is important since I’m on my own. There is always someone around to have a chat with over a cup of tea,” she adds.

Lieutenant Colonel Barrie Bruce Bateson aged 86 is also renting with Girlings Retirement Rentals. He moved to Hove from Salisbury when his wife had to go into care home. He now rents a ground floor apartment in a retirement development in central Hove, close to shops and amenities.

Barrie says, “I wanted to be close to the care home, so I can visit my wife regularly, as well as being able to see my daughter and grandson. The apartment is ideal for both and is in a lovely location, not too far from the seafront. It was also important for me to retain my independence, so this offers me the best of both worlds.”

Barrie adds, “I really enjoy living here. The facilities are excellent. I have access to social activities, which is important now I’m living on my own. I have made friends and we often do things together or just meet for a chat in the lounge. I also make use of various clubs in Hove, including the rugby club where I go to watch games.”