Report shows effect of pandemic on feelings of loneliness in over 55s

A study of 200 over 55s found that 79% of those who felt lonely in 2020 had not seen an improvement in these feelings in 2021. 

Central & Cecil Housing Trust (C&C) provides housing for over 55s across London, including Richmond, and 200 of their residents were surveyed about their feelings of isolation and loneliness due to the pandemic. 

The study found that while only 30% reported feeling isolated or lonely in the last year – down from 38% in the 2020/21 winter, 79% of residents with these feelings said they had not improved during 2021. 

54% of the surveyed residents said their instances of feeling lonely or isolated increased from December 2020 to December 2021. Data source: CCHT

This C&C study comes as Age UK reports that more than a million older people go more than a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.

Age UK also found that more than two million people over the age of 75 in the UK live alone. 

54% of C&C residents surveyed said that their instances of feeling lonely or isolated increased in December 2021, compared to these instances in December 2020.

21% of residents did say, however, that these instances decreased in the year, with 25% answering that their instances of feeling lonely or isolated remained the same.

C&C figures serve as a reflection of the mental impact that the ongoing pandemic, and the various restrictions can and have caused. 

Myriam Martinez, a resident at Edna House in Paddington, turned to both outdoor activities and online classes to help her avoid loneliness and isolation.

C&C resident Myriam poses in her front garden as she plants some flowers. She uses gardening to help with her feelings of loneliness. Image credit: CCHT
C&C resident Myriam turned to outdoor activities and Zoom classes to help her feelings of loneliness. Image credit: CCHT

She said: “I did more gardening over the pandemic, and I took up walking to the parks when the shops were closed.

“I communicate more now with friends via Zoom, as well as taking guitar lessons, Zumba classes and others online.

“I realise now that I do not depend on others, and that I am more free to do what I really want to or should do.

“Walking has been a great lesson for me, and the guitar classes I have restarted, having stopped them a long time ago.

“I am eating consciously and better now.”

94% of surveyed C&C residents said they felt they had the right support networks to help them with isolation and loneliness, with 84% of these citing family and friends as sources of support. Data source: CCHT

C&C’s study did show that 94% of surveyed residents felt they had the right support networks in place around them, to help them either deal with, or entirely avoid, isolation and loneliness.

Residents cited different sources of support for their feelings of loneliness, with 88% citing family and friends as a part of their support network.

This was an increase of 30% from just 58% of residents in 2020, citing family and friends as part of their support network.

Other sources of support that helped over 55s included community groups, religious groups, C&C staff and other residents at their housing scheme.

Julia Ashley, managing director of C&C and over-55s services lead of Aster Group, said: “Despite the obvious difficulties that Covid-19 has presented, we’re proud to have delivered hundreds of in-person activities for the benefit of our housing residents as and when we have been able to.

“These have been supported by online events as well, which has been well received by many residents.

“However for others, not meeting in person can have serious negative impacts on mental health.

“This pandemic has demonstrated how important it is to be able to reach out and be supported from a variety of different people and groups.

“We’re working closer than ever with our partner organisations to identify how we can help those who may be experiencing loneliness and isolation especially in these winter months.”

C&C’s full report into how over 55s are coping with feelings of loneliness during the pandemic can be found here.

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