VIDEO: ‘Unacceptable’ loneliness level for elderly in Horsham district a ‘call to action’

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One in five elderly residents experiencing loneliness in the Horsham district is ‘unacceptable’ and a ‘call to arms’ according to an Age UK boss.

Janice Leeming, chief executive officer of Age UK Horsham district, was hosting a public event at Drill Hall in Denne Road, Horsham, on Tuesday September 3 on the impact of loneliness and social isolation.

JPCT 030913 S13361290x Horsham District. Age UK. Loneliness and isolation event.  -photo by Steve Cobb

JPCT 030913 S13361290x Horsham District. Age UK. Loneliness and isolation event. -photo by Steve Cobb

According to results from the 2013 West Sussex Older People’s Survey, 19.5 per cent of respondents described themselves as being lonely.

She said: “One of the reasons we do not think it’s acceptable is that the number of people who are lonely and isolated is growing.

“There’s a body of evidence that loneliness has a massive impact on health.”

In the same survey loneliness was listed as increasing the odds of emergency hospitalisation admission by 80 per cent.

Presenting the survey, Farhang Tahzib, a public health consultant working for West Sussex County Council, said: “Rather than thinking about older people as a problem we need to think of them as an asset.”

He continued: “What we need to be thinking [is], how neighbourly am I as a person, how neighbourly are we as a community?”

In the same survey 40 per cent of elderly people in the Horsham district described themselves as being in bad health, with many of this number worried about keeping warm in the winter.

Almost a quarter avoided heating rooms, five per cent went without food, while three per cent went to libraries to keep warm.

Dr Tahzib added: “Horsham is ahead of the game in terms of participation, but we can do much more and we need to look at pockets where these things do not occur.”

Guest speaker Paul Cann, chief executive officer of Age UK Oxfordshire and founder member of the Campaign to End Loneliness, highlighted three key areas for future projects. He thought promoting exercise, creative arts, and emotional relationships were things that could prevent elderly people from becoming socially isolated.

David Sheldon, chief executive of charity Horsham Matters, said it was important that local figures and statistics were employed to show what was happening locally, so they could work towards ending isolation and loneliness in Horsham district’s communities.

Sue Rogers, Horsham District Council’s cabinet member for a safer and healthier district, said the council was working closely with Age UK on a number of projects, and she had reinstated a working group to look at the issues relating to an ageing population.

She added: “I was very pleased that safety was not raised as an issue. That’s very important and that supports the work we have been doing on community safety.”

“It’s really down to every single one of us to make a difference. It’s about a whole community response,” Ms Leeming added.

“On an individual level this is something everyone can get involved in. It’s a real call to action.”

To see how you can help email or call 01403 260560.