Tuesday, 11 December 2012
New report reveals loneliness among older people exacerbated by distance from family
The pressure of their grown-up children’s work and family commitments is taking its toll on the nation’s older people with a new WRVS report
identifying 363,176 have children too busy to see them.
The report reveals the fragmented nature of families today and the large number of over 75 year olds whose closest children live a substantial distance away from them. For 10% of older people, their nearest child lives more than an hour’s drive away (40 miles plus).
Distance clearly has an impact on how often older people see their family, with the frequency of grown up children visiting their parents decreasing the further away they live: of those whose children live an hour’s drive away or more, almost half (48%) are visited just once every two to six months.
Declines in job security and labour-market restructuring have increased pressure on the family and reduced location choices – 82% of children who have moved away from their older parents have done so for work reasons.
"This research casts light on the state of the modern family. Many children have no choice but to move away from their older parents because of work or family reasons and really regret the fact that they aren’t close enough for more regular visits to alleviate their parent’s loneliness. There are solutions though that will give older people the support and companionship they need and their children the reassurance that their parents are being looked after. WRVS, for example, has thousands of dedicated volunteers who can pop in to read to or run errands for older people, or simply have a chat and a cup of tea. At this time of year, with Christmas approaching, older people with family living far away may be feeling even lonelier and so services like ours are even more vital."
David McCullough, chief executive of WRVS
Download the full report: Loneliness amongst older people and impact of family connections
While the vast majority (93%) of older people feel that their grown up children see them as much as they can, 17% would like to see their children more often and this increases the further away that their children live from them. 67% of those that live 200 miles or more away from their children would like to see more of them.
According to the report, how close an older person lives to their children and how often they see them, has an impact on how isolated and lonely they feel – older people who see their children once a month or less are twice as likely to feel lonely than those who see their children every day.
Nearly three-quarters of over 75s that live alone feel lonely. Worryingly, those people who live alone are in face to face contact with their children less often than those who live with their husband or wife.
Previous research has shown that, for half of older people, the television is their main company. And it has been proven that loneliness has a knock on negative impact on older people’s health.
The majority of older people, who ever feel lonely, have not told their children that they are feeling lonely (61%). This is mostly because (69%) they say that they don’t want to bother them. This is particularly worrying at Christmas; the research found that many older people are resigned to spending Christmas Day by themselves, with 230,000 saying they will spend the day alone this year.
The research reveals the reasons behind the changing social geography of families and the emerging use of technology for keeping in touch. It shows that:
- 40% of older people speak to their children on the phone every day (only 28% in Scotland and 37% in Wales).
- However, 7% of older people never speak to their children on the phone.
- 85% of people that use Skype say that it helps them feel more connected. However, there is recognition that it’s not the same as seeing your children (87%).
- The majority of older people do not use Skype to talk to their children (95%). This is because, for many (42%) they don’t know how to use it.
- The regularity of Skype use varies across the nations: in England 21%, of those who use Skype, do so weekly, in Wales it’s 38% and Scotland 75%.
This new report emphasizes the findings of previous WRVS research which highlighted the acute problem of loneliness in amongst older people in this country. 22% of older people feel lonely and this varies across the country, with Scottish people reporting the most loneliness (27% of older people), compared to 22% in England and 17% in Wales.
For further information
WRVS is one of Britain’s leading age positive volunteering charities with more than 40,000 volunteers working to help make Britain a great place to grow old in. If you are over the age of 14, we have volunteering opportunities in communities, in hospitals and in emergency situations.
Find out how you could become a WRVS volunteer, call 0845 601 4670 today or search for volunteering opportunities in your area. Or help make a difference by making a secure online donation to WRVS.
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