Ageing alone: loneliness and the 'oldest old'
KEMPTON James, TOMLIN Sam
Loneliness occurs at all stages of life but little attention has been paid to its incidence and impact in the oldest old (85+), the fourth generation. This report begins by exploring: loneliness and why it matters; the incidence of loneliness in older people; and what is known about loneliness in the oldest old (85+). It then looks six contextual criteria that should be considered when initiating or commissioning interventions to tackle loneliness: rural and urban living; gender; health; living alone; community resilience; intergenerational interaction and ageism. Using case study analysis of projects that are tackling loneliness effectively, the report then explores practical steps that can be taken to reduce levels of loneliness among the oldest old. The case studies include one-to-one interventions, group services and building social networks; and encouraging wider community engagement. The case studies also illustrate the continued willingness of individuals of all ages to get involved in their local community. Whereas people might once have volunteered informally to help people they knew, ‘permission’ to initiate contact, through formalised and structured opportunities, is important. This is an important pointer as to how our modern society can organise itself to help address loneliness. (Edited publisher abstract)