Age UK bosses thrilled with response to Sunderland SOS

Alan Patchett
Alan Patchett
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Age UK Sunderland bosses say they are delighted with the “tremendous” response to a new Echo-backed campaign to recruit more volunteers to help elderly people in the city.

The ‘No One Should Have No One’ campaign has already seen 12 new volunteers sign up in the first three days and the charity hopes more will be inspired to help tackle loneliness this Christmas.

The campaign is particularly aimed at getting people involved with the Age UK befriending service, which puts volunteers in contact with lonely older people.

One new volunteer, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was touched by the campaign and said it was an “awful thought” that there are people who may be alone at Christmas.

She said: “All of the stories in the Echo article were touching as no one should be alone at any time, let along in the holiday season.”

The former care worker said she is particularly interested in face-to-face befriending and feels that sitting with someone in person and chatting over a cup of tea can hopefully make a big difference to someone’s day.

Alan Patchett, director at Age UK Sunderland, said he was delighted with the number new volunteers.

“I think 12 people in three days is tremendous,” he said. We are very grateful to all those people who have signed up and we urge others to do the same.”

The campaign comes as Age UK statistics have shown that more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.

In Sunderland, Age UK estimates there are 42,771 people aged 60 and over who could be classed as lonely or socially isolated. Of those, some 9,982 are over 80.

Yet people do not realise that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health: research shows that lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Holt-Lunstad, 2010).

Scientists tracked more than 2,000 people aged 50 and over and found the loneliest were nearly twice as likely to die during the six-year study than the least lonely.

The findings point to a coming crisis as the population ages and people increasingly live alone or far from their families.

A study of loneliness in older Britons in 2012 found that more than a fifth felt lonely all the time, and a quarter became more lonely over five years. Half of those who took part in the survey said their loneliness was worse at weekends, and three-quarters suffered more at night.

Previous studies have linked loneliness to a range of health problems, from high blood pressure and a weakened immune system to a greater risk of depression, heart attack and strokes.

Alan Patchett, director at Age UK Sunderland, said the study added to a growing body of research showing that being lonely not only made life miserable for older people, but also made them more vulnerable to illness and disease.

“The research on loneliness has shown that it is extremely detrimental to heath and that is why we view it as such and important issue to older people,”he said.

“It’s time we took loneliness seriously as a threat to a happy and healthy later life. We need to do more to support older people to stay socially connected. This is a big part of our job at Age UK Sunderland and everyone can help by being a good friend or neighbour to the older people they know.”

Please help

Christmas is supposed to be the happiest time of the year as we enjoy festive cheer with our families and friends.

But for many elderly folk across Wearside, it can be a very lonely time.

In Sunderland, Age UK estimates there are 42,771 people aged 60 and over who could be classed as lonely or socially isolated. Of those, some 9,982 are over 80.

Age UK says some senior citizens in Sunderland can go for a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.

The Sunderland Echo is teaming up with Age UK’s team in the city to launch our No One Should Have No One campaign –urging people to help the charity, particularly by getting involved with its befriending service, which puts volunteers in contact with lonely older people.

Age UK is also calling for local and national government action to recognise loneliness as a serious health hazard and put policies in place to tackle it.

It is asking the public to sign its loneliness petition to make sure no one has no one.

It wants to see the Government and Sunderland City Council develop strategies to map, prevent and address loneliness; evaluate and improve existing services to combat loneliness; and invest in testing and evaluating innovative solutions to loneliness.

To sign the petition online or donate to Age UK, visit the charity’s website.

Alternatively, sign the peition on the left.

To get involved in volunteering, contact Age UK Sunderland volunteer co-ordinator Barry Hall on 0191 514 1131.