Nearly one third of older adults experience loneliness and/or social isolation (Berg_Weger & Morley, 2020). This figure will be exacerbated due to the COVID-19, with over-70’s self-isolating and being particularly vulnerable to the virus. Social isolation can negatively affect the elderly in numerous different ways, including elevated feelings of stress, anger sadness, depression, emptiness, worthlessness, and pessimism (Griffin, 2010). Physical health can also be affected by loneliness, such as elevated cortisol levels, weakened immune system, poorer sleep quality, and doubled risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease (Age UK, 2015).
Befriending has been shown to help loneliness in the elderly. Befriending is “an intervention that introduces the client to one or more individuals, whose main aim is to provide the client with additional social support through the development of an affirming, emotion-focused relationship over time” (Mead et al., 2010). Befriending often consists of regular visits to an older person’s house, and telephone calls by either a paid worker or volunteer. Befriending has been shown to:
- Reduce depression, loneliness, and feelings of being a burden.
- Improve confidence and anxiousness
- Improvements in physical health as well as emotional health
- Improve general well-being and quality of life
Older people who use the Age UK telephone befriending service reported that they valued the ability to talk, listen, and share information with another person who they could trust and rely on. Additionally, it’s not just the elderly who experience the benefits of befriending; volunteers for the Age UK befriending scheme showed increased self-confidence, improved interpersonal skills, and feelings of satisfaction as a result from volunteering (Age UK, 2015).
Here is a list of local and national befriending services, for you to volunteer at if you would like, or for you to suggest to any elderly friends or relatives who are experiencing loneliness.
Age UK Notts – regular companionship, listening ear, and friendship.
Telephone Friendship – a national telephone friendship service run by Age UK and The Silver Line.
Good Companions – reducing loneliness and isolation for older people in Clifton, Wilford, and Silverdale.
Phone: 0115 878 6182
East Leake Community Care Association – the Community Care Association run a Befriending Group for the elderly people of East Leake.
The Silver Line Helpline: 0800 4 70 80 90 (free, confidential, open 24/7, 365 days a year. Provides information, friendship, and advice to older people aged 60+).