Sandra Springett, Chief Officer of Age UK Tunbridge Wells talks to the Times about the charity’s initiatives to tackle loneliness…
Loneliness can define our lives and have a significant impact on our wellbeing, yet in the UK today there are over 800,000 people aged 65 and older who are lonely, and 600,000 in the same age category who are socially isolated.
Income fears, poor health and lack of wellbeing are increasingly becoming key drivers of loneliness, and it is these factors which reduce opportunities for older people to participate in the community more widely.
Age UK Tunbridge Wells, an independently-funded charity administered by locally-appointed trustees is trying to address the causes of loneliness by bringing people together, whether through their day centre or their friendship services.
This winter, the day centre in Wood Street, off Camden Road, will continue to offer a crucial resource for many local older people by being a safe, warm space where they can socialise with one another.
One client, Linda, said: “I’ve been coming to the Age UK Tunbridge Wells day centre for two years and it’s allowed me to build confidence in myself. It’s helped me manage to speak to people without being frightened.
“I’ve experienced loneliness for a few years. Lockdown was the hardest when you couldn’t go outside your front door. That was too much for me, it was very hard. It’s this place that’s making me feel good now.”
Meanwhile, another regular visitor, Jo said: “I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t come here. There is nowhere else to go. I’d be totally lost.”
The charity is also striving to combat loneliness through its friendship services, either by telephone or face-to-face.
Volunteer befrienders offer support by increasing the levels of meaningful contact for an older person.
Those who volunteer their free time as befrienders are able to directly support an older person to socialise, improving their confidence and making a positive difference to their life.
This is particularly important at Christmas, as Age UK research has found that almost 1.5 million over-65s said they usually feel lonelier at this time of year than any other.
That is why tackling loneliness is the focus for Age UK Tunbridge Wells this season.
The charity’s official ‘Bring a smile’ Christmas raffle is raising awareness of loneliness and raising funds for the Age UK Tunbridge Wells day centre.
Raffle tickets are £2 per ticket, with prizes donated by local businesses. Available from: justgiving.com/campaign/ageuktunbridgewells-bring-a-smile-raffle