Growing older often means a slower lifestyle due to retirement, mobility issues and loss of family members and friends. It can also mean loneliness.
A recent study of the elderly in the United Kingdom turned up some alarming results.
Hundreds of thousands of people are spending an entire week without speaking to anyone at all.
The survey of 1,896 seniors, 65 years and older in the UK showed 22 percent would go a week talking to no more than 3 people. If you translate that percentage across the country, 2.6 million of the elderly do not have daily contact with another human being.
Researchers then said a distressing 225,000 will not have one single conversation with another person within a normal week.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, made this statement:
A friendly “hello” or “how are you?” is something most of us take for granted – it’s just part of every day life, but these latest figures show that hundreds of thousands of older people in the UK will spend today and the rest of this week alone, with no one to share even a few simple words with.
The study also revealed 36 percent of seniors experienced feelings of loneliness as they have gotten older. When asked if loneliness kept them from leaving their houses, 12 percent answered yes.
Almost half of the seniors surveyed (40 percent) said they would feel more confident in leaving home if they were friends with some of their neighbors.
More than half (54 percent) said a brief conversation with someone in the neighborhood would improve their outlook. And many said having someone smile at them or start a friendly conversation would make them happier.
Abrahams’ organization partnered with Cadbury Dairy Milk for the survey on elderly loneliness. “Loneliness can affect your health, your wellbeing and the way you see yourself – it can make you feel invisible and forgotten,” she said.
An additional study of 2000 people ages 16-45 showed a little more than half (55 percent) worried about their own levels of loneliness when they are older. Two-thirds said they were willing to reach out to elderly people.
To that end, Age UK and Cadbury started a campaign called Donate Your Words to encourage younger adults and teens to start conversations with the older people of their communities.
A simple chat or a kind acknowledgment of someone walking down the street or standing in a line is simple, costs nothing and is guaranteed to brighten the day of a lonely elderly person.