Isolation can cause as much harm as physical illness in older people

    Community-care providers should deliver services that help
    combat loneliness for socially isolated people alongside addressing
    their physical needs, says a report by an influential think-tank,
    writes Haroon Arshaf.

    The government’s plans for helping older and housebound
    people is missing the point, said a report by independent research
    institute Demos.

    “The key to reducing loneliness lies not with the state, or
    even voluntary organisations or community groups, but with lonely
    people themselves”, said the London-based group.

    Most home and day-care services seek best value, which defines a
    patient’s needs in narrow financial terms, and can undermine
    a person’s self esteem and reinforce their isolation.

    For example, many local authorities have moved away from a regular
    delivery of hot meals to isolated housebound people to a
    fortnightly delivery of frozen meals.

    Although this is very efficient and gives the patient greater
    choice, it reduces their precious social, daily contact.

    A spokesman for Age Concern said, “Services for older people
    are generally set-up to give practical, day-to-day help with
    activities such as washing and dressing but fail to take account of
    people’s social or emotional needs.”

    The report praised the work of the Community Service Volunteers
    (CSV), the UK’s largest volunteer and training organisation,
    which runs schemes to give older, isolated people the chance to get
    involved in society.

    “We see older people as a resource, not as a problem. By
    doing this they can combat for themselves some of the physical as
    well as mental problems that may confront them . . . .in later
    years”, said CSV spokesman Jason Tanner.

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