Lonely In London: Let’s break down barriers causing isolation in old age

Friday, 5th August — By Anna Lamche

Back together

Age UK’s post-pandemic Let’s Get Back Together events

FEELINGS of loneliness and isolation aming older people often have complex roots but there are people across Islington who are “always willing to help,” a charity has said this week.

Age UK Islington works with thousands of people a year, according to communications manager Katie Skea, helping those who feel isolated to overcome barriers and live more connected lives.

“Social isolation is a product of circumstances – it could be a lack of confidence, bereavement, mental health issues, long-term health conditions. All of these are barriers to making social connections,” she said.

“Luckily, there are very straightforward ways we can help.”

While some people are referred to the charity via their GP, it is also possible to “pick up the phone” yourself, Ms Skea said. Following an initial conversation over the phone, every person will be paired with a dedicated “link worker” who can offer “intensive support,” Ms Skea said.

Link workers help people understand their situation “holistically, looking at the issues in their lives and what they want to achieve,” Ms Skea said.

Once goals have been identified, link workers establish the barriers every individual faces, and the measures that can be taken to overcome these barriers.

“If people can’t get there we ask: how can we help you get there? Are you lacking confidence? Do you need a taxi card?” Ms Skea said.

But the programme is not about forcing people out of the house.

“One person might be happy staying at home,” Ms Skea said.

Despite its name, Age UK’s services are not only for older people, with support for most people over the age of 16.

They run a series of in-house sessions, such as special support groups for unpaid carers, who often find themselves lonely “because they put the person they’re caring for first,” Ms Skea added.

Carmen Alcovedes

The charity also works with partner organisations across Islington to “link people into wider community events,” Ms Skea said.

Carmen Alcovedes is the charity’s Activities Co-ordinator overseeing the services on offer across the borough, such as ceramics workshops, breakfast clubs, and exercise classes.

She said people often noticed an improvement after joining a single session.

One woman who joined a ceramics class despite long-term health problems was told by her children “she looked happier – she wasn’t talking about her pain. You can feel [the benefits] on the first day you do something new,” Ms Alcovedes said.

Her advice to anyone feeling lonely is “to contact the organisation that you feel could help you,” whether that’s Age UK or a more “niche” service. “Go to your local community centre, library or park,” she said.

“There’s a bigger spirit of community out of the pandemic – if there’s one thing that came out of the pandemic, it’s that. People are always willing to help: just be brave and take the first step and someone will be on the other side.”

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