Over the past 14 months, since the initial outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK, many people have experienced chronic loneliness. This has affected seniors in particular, with many cut off from their friends and family during the various lockdowns. It has been made even worse for older people, with many spending long periods shielding due to being particularly vulnerable.
While vaccinations for seniors have now largely been completed, and the country is working its way out of lockdown, several charities have said chronic loneliness could continue to affect a million over-65s. This could then have a profound impact on both their mental wellbeing and their physical health.
According to the Older People’s Task and Finish Group, part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Tackling Loneliness Network, this chronic loneliness many will continue to experience could even result in early death.
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Many support organisations closed during lockdown
One of the problems highlighted by the charity was that many support organisations for older people closed permanently during lockdown. This has left over-65s with far fewer options when it comes to getting support. The network questioned 96 support charities recently, and only 7% are back to normal operations.
A survey carried out by the network showed that many seniors are not receiving the same level of support as they were pre-pandemic. Nearly 75% of those polled said they were receiving significantly less or no support at all.
According to Deborah Alsina, the chief executive of Independent Age, loneliness has become a part of everyday life for many. She said, “For people who told us loneliness was not just a product of lockdowns and shielding, but a symptom of their everyday life before the pandemic, the easing of restrictions is not a silver bullet.”
Another charity official, Fiona Carragher, the director of research and influencing at the Alzheimer’s Society, said, “The extremely damaging side-effects of lockdown – long periods of isolation, a loss of routine and social interaction – have caused significant mental health as well as physical health deterioration for people with dementia, many of them just ‘giving up’ on life, fading away.”
Additional ways in which seniors have been affected
Another survey from Age UK showed there were also other ways in which seniors were suffering in addition to severe loneliness. Around one-third of those who were polled for the survey said they had far less energy these days, while a quarter said they couldn't walk as far as they could previously.
The results also showed that one-fifth of those polled found that they experienced memory issues. Over a quarter said that they did not feel confident about spending time with family members and loved ones.
Some charity officials have said that the pandemic had seriously impacted older people's health and confidence. Emily Kenward, the CEO of Time to Talk Befriending, said that two-thirds of their members still did not feel ready to leave the confines of their homes. She added that many seniors had lost the will to live because they felt ‘invisible and alone.’