Milton Keynes-based care provider shines light on 'hidden loneliness epidemic' in older population due to pandemic

    A local care provider has highlighted the impact that the pandemic has had on older people, particularly with regards to increased loneliness and anxiety.

    Radfield Home Care, which operates throughout the UK, surveyed 250 adults aged 60 and above to highlight the impact of social restrictions on their quality of life, as well as their fears and hopes for reconnecting with friends and loved ones as restrictions ease.

    The research, which concluded in May, found that while a larger number of respondents (84%) received some support from family, friends, neighbours, or carers during lockdown, over 40% had chosen not to be part of a ‘bubble’ with another household, either due to family living further away or as a precaution to minimise health risks.

    The need to reduce social contact has naturally given rise to new mental health challenges, with 4 in 10 respondents experiencing low mood during lockdown, 2 in 10 having feelings of anxiety, and 1 in 10 experiencing depression. A wider challenge, however, has been loneliness, with almost half of all respondents (45%) saying they’d sometimes or often felt lonely during lockdown.

    “We live in a world that’s more digitally connected but less physically connected. Travel, lifestyle, shifts in our communities, and growing use of the internet have played a part in increasing distance between people, even before the pandemic,” said Alex Green, Director of Radfield Home Care.

    “For older people, loneliness can have profound effects on physical and mental health, as well as life expectancy. This is something we’re working very hard to change; we believe that connection to a sense of identity, to relationships, and to a purpose are all crucial to enjoying later life, and as care providers, we strive to bridge those gaps wherever possible.”

    The research also looked at what people are most looking forward to as restrictions lift, as well as their concerns about things returning to normal.

    40% said they were most looking forward to reuniting with friends and family they haven’t seen for a long time, while 14% were most looking forward to taking a holiday and 10% were most excited about travelling beyond their local area.

    However, 73% of respondents said they had concerns over the easing of restrictions, with 53% worried about infection rates rising when lockdown lifts, 11% concerned about interacting with others, and 8% worried about health and safety standards at supermarkets, shops, and restaurants.

    “While many of us are longing to get back out into our communities and see our loved ones, there’s a definite level of uncertainty and anxiety about doing so,” said Alex.

    “Life in lockdown was predictable, and after over a year spent indoors, people in older age groups are right to proceed with caution. No matter how much friends and family have been missed, it’s important that people do this at a pace that feels safe and right for them until they’re completely comfortable with life returning to normal.”

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