We are suffering from an epidemic of loneliness and it’s not just a private sorrow, it’s a public health risk.
In October 2018 the British Government announced a strategy for tackling loneliness after what is probably a global first, the appointment (back in January 2018) of a Minister for Loneliness. Loneliness shot up the public agenda in the wake of a high-profile government commission and growing research evidence that loneliness is costing the nation billions of pounds annually because of its impact on health. It seems that loneliness is as bad for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is even more dangerous for our life chances than obesity. It has a particularly high impact on the risks of heart disease, depression and dementia.
It’s not particularly surprising to find that loneliness is a major issue among older people as many of them live alone. An Age UK study showed that 1.2 million older people are chronically lonely (about 10 per cent of the age group) and two-fifths of the age group say that television is their main source of company. But it is surprising to learn that young people aged 16- 24 are the loneliest of all. It goes to show that having hundreds of friends on Facebook is no substitute for real connection.
People who run homeshare programmes have always seen companionship as one of the main benefits of homesharing. Everyone involved has seen how householders flourish when they are paired with a suitable homesharer and some have documented the impact on their health. We recall a case study from Australia of an elderly man living alone who was so concerned about his health that, in the space of one year, he visited the emergency department of his local hospital no fewer than 51 times. Then he was paired up with a young homesharer – and his medical crises simply vanished. No doubt you know of similar stories.
It’s time for us all to start shouting about what homesharing is saving the public purse in costs to the health service – a fact to mention when applying for funding.
We are pleased to see that in Australia, Fiona Patten, a Victoria MP, is arguing that Australia too needs to act to end the personal sadness and public cost of loneliness. One tenth of the country’s population experiences social isolation. Meanwhile in France, postal workers are at the frontline, spending time with isolated older people under a new initiative called Veiller sur mes parents (‘Watch over my parents’). This is a paid-for service that recognizes that the postman/woman is someone we probably know already and trust completely.
Background reading and links to other sources: see Campaign to End Loneliness, https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/
Loneliness more likely to affect young people: www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-43711606
‘Loneliness minister’ proposed to tackle Australian social isolation: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/oct/19/loneliness-minister-proposed-to-tackle-australian-social-isolation
https://connect2affect.org/about-isolation/ – sponsored by the AARP, this USA programme aims to reduce isolation among older people. It lists homesharing as a potential solution
A Canadian paper, Seniors: Loneliness and Social Isolation reviews recent understandings of loneliness and social isolation among older adults, while at the same time outlining distinguishing characteristics. It also explores the prevalence of social isolation and loneliness in older adults and some potential risk factors that may increase an individual’s loneliness and/or social isolation.
Full Report (PDF) This paper is being used at Queen’s University and University of Toronto
I would like to introduce our latest report Ageing in the UK Now which is a summary of some of the key research and developing practice relevant to the UK’s ageing sector, and also matching these against the wider political and social agenda.
I emphasize that this is very much an introduction to this area: a snapshot of what is going on. It can be used as a helpful beginning to exploring topics that are relevant to the field of ageing. You might also find the bibliography and compendium of resources helpful.
We are planning to grow and expand on this opening review and update it on a continuing basis. We are exploring how best to do this in respect of a format and schedule. We will be in contact with you to update you on what we produce in due course.
In the meantime if you have any feedback this would be very welcome and if you require any more information about our work please do not hesitate to contact me or my colleagues at BJF.
To download the report go to our website: www.bjf.org.uk or for a printed copy Email:
All best wishes
Beth Johnson Foundation
For information on additional resources from Homeshare programs throughout world, please see the Homeshare International website.
The World Health Organization recognizes HomeShare as a "best practice" for age-friendly communities. See the Global Database of Age-friendly Practices for more details.
Prof Mariano Sánchez, University of Granada & Penn State University, presented at the 2013 World Homeshare Congress in Oxford, England. See his presentation materials and read the original research paper, "Much More than Accommodation in Exchange for Companionship: Dimensions of Solidarity in an Intergenerational Homeshare Program in Spain".
LES PRATIQUES ORGANISÉES D’HABITATION PARTAGÉE AU QUÉBEC - Septembre 2006
Cette étude est publiée par la Société d'habitation du Québec. Elle a été réalisée en octobre 2004 par Marie-Noëlle Ducharme. L'édition actuelle a été produite sous la coordination de François Renaud de la Société d'habitation du Québec. Cette publication est offerte sur le site Internet de la Société d'habitation du Québec www.habitation.gouv.qc.ca. Pour desrenseignements additionnels,on peut s'adresser au Centre de documentation de la Société d'habitation du Québec.
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