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Pensioners’ battle with loneliness

Age Concern Eastwood are fighting to keep transport running for lunch club members at the Age Concern Colin Dyson Centre, Eastwood (l-r): Josie Marsters, Irene Thorley, County Cllr Keith Longden and Barry Fullwood
Age Concern Eastwood are fighting to keep transport running for lunch club members at the Age Concern Colin Dyson Centre, Eastwood (l-r): Josie Marsters, Irene Thorley, County Cllr Keith Longden and Barry Fullwood

Hundreds of thousands of elderly people are desperately lonely and cut off from the outside world.

In England, 51 per cent of all people over 75 live alone, and shockingly five million pensioners say the television is their main form of company.

Loneliness can have a detrimental impact on health, causing depression and even Alzheimers.

In Eastwood, many pensioners who live alone go along to a local lunch club in Edward Road, ran by Age Concern.

Trustee and volunteer Josie Marsters, said she had ‘grave concerns’ about loneliness in the elderly.

“I see it on a daily basis. I have grave concerns. There’s a lot of lonely people out there and very worryingly a lot of the elderly living alone have Dementia.”

Mrs Marsters said the lunch club gave pensioners the chance to get out and about and meet new people.

“The elderly folk come here for companionship,” she said.

Eileen Hennessy, 83, is one of the ladies that goes to the lunch club, held at the Colin Dyson Centre Mondays to Thursdays.

She says she just misses having somebody to talk to.

“I used to have carers because I had a few falls, but once I was better they stopped coming and I really miss them,” she said.

“They used to run my errands and make me a cup of tea. It was nice to have the company, and I miss it now they don’t come. You need someone to talk to. You talk to yourself otherwise.

“I have a sister who lives nearby and she visits once a week, but other days I don’t see anybody and it’s hard,” added Eileen.

Percy George is 90, and says he thanks his lucky stars he has his son and daughter living close by.

“My daughter will come round to see whether I’ve got any letters that need to be read. And my son comes round on a Thursday each week for the same thing,” he said.

But Percy said loneliness was a huge problem and it was important to get out and about and mix with people.

“It’s definitely a problem. It’s always going to be difficult being on your own. You’ve got to try to mix with people. You’ve got to see people to pass the time away. You’ve got to keep going and that’s all you can do,” he said.

Mrs Marsters said the Government was not spending enough money on the elderly, so services offered by social services were falling short.

Marie Ashfourth, 86, said: “I still have my independence but my next door neighbour is a very lonely man. He has Alzheimers, but you can’t have conversation with him because he doesn’t understand. He goes out on his own and the police have to bring him home.”

One in 10 people 65 or over say they always or often feel lonely – that’s just over one million people.

Visit ageuk.org.uk for more information on lonelines in the elderly.