In the UK, 3.6 million older people live alone – 2 million of those are aged 75+. We’ve spoken about the effects of isolation before, offering 6 strategies for coping with loneliness. But what about coping physically?
Alarmingly, research published by the Health Foundation found that people that are 65+ and live alone are 50% more likely to go to A&E than those who live with someone else.
Whether you’re feeling isolated and lonely, or physically struggling around the house, these are some of the best ways to access emotional and physical support at home.
Motivate a mate with GoodGym
GoodGym’s mission is to tackle isolation amongst older people by pairing runners with those in need of support. They do this in two ways:
A runner will make a social visit to your house and spend time with you each week. And, it’s mutually beneficial because, in essence, you act as your runner’s ‘coach’. It’s your visit that motivates the GoodGym runner to go the distance. Coach runs are flexible and fit around your schedule; they won’t take up more than 20 minutes per week. GoodGym are also dedicated to finding the right match between ‘coach’ and runner – so it’s likely you’ll have plenty in common.
Any runner that joins GoodGym is subject to a thorough background check and must provide references. Furthermore, they will need to complete an online training course before becoming verified; it’s very safe.
Certified GoodGym volunteers can also help out with specific tasks around the house or garden. Whether it’s changing a lightbulb or doing some weeding, they’ll run to your house and roll their sleeves up. You choose the time and, as they’re volunteers, it’s completely free (money exchanges between ‘coaches’ and volunteers is entirely against the rules). Tasks should last a minimum of 3 hours and cannot include:
- anything that requires a qualified professional, e.g. an electrician for electrical works.
- Health related assignments; medical requirements should be referred to social services.
- Food shopping or household care. These tasks should also be referred to social services.
GoodGym receives referrals for older people from community organisations that they partner with in each area. To find out who they partner with in your area, call GoodGym on 0203 432 3920.
Befriending services from Age UK
Age UK offer two types of befriending service; you can access services over the phone or face-to-face.
Call in Time
Designed for the over- 60s, Call in Time is a telephone befriending service which matches volunteers with older people. By signing up, you can expect a friendly 30-minute chat with a like-minded individual, carefully selected by Age UK. You can talk for a little longer though if you like – or less. What’s more, whilst you wait to be paired with a volunteer, Age UK will schedule short Good Day Calls to help bridge the gap. Rest assured, this service is completely safe; Age UK automatically connect you to your telephone friend (no phone numbers are exchanged).
Unfortunately, this service might not be the right choice if you require a higher level of support. Individuals suffering from memory loss, dementia or mental health issues may find these calls difficult or distressing. However, Age UK does offer a range of services in your area that can help.
Call the team on 0800 434 6105 to sign up.
Age UK also offers a face-to-face befriending service, available at many local branches. Here, a volunteer will visit for a chat – or accompany you to an activity, e.g. a trip to the cafe or cinema. They can also help out if you need someone to help you get to a doctor’s appointment.
However, this is more than a bit of company and a cuppa. Regular, friendly contact can help you develop the confidence to socialise again. Meeting someone with shared interests will likely reignite a passion for hobbies you used to love – or help to find new ones. And – importantly – by going back out into the community, you might make some new friends as well.
People aged 75+ are eligible for the service (65+ if referred via the NHS). Contact your local Age UK to find out if they are offering befriending services.
Household help with Homeshare
Homeshare is a great initiative to, not only, combat loneliness but help you live independently. If you have a spare room and are anxious about living alone, Homeshare will match you with a homesharer who can provide company and support. In return for low cost accommodation, your housesharer will give you a minimum of 10 hours of support per week.
As well as emotional support, this is a useful scheme if you’re looking for practical help around the house – and don’t mind sharing your space. The agreement is flexible and can include a variety of tasks like shopping, gardening, cleaning or support when visiting the doctor.
You can apply online and the process that follows is simple:
- A Homeshare member will get in touch
- They’ll then meet you to find out more about your requirements
- The matching process begins
- You’ll be paired with a suitable homesharer
It’s worth noting that you may have to pay a monthly administration fee to the Homeshare. This is to cover the cost of the service and the average is around £140 per month.
You can check the Homeshare website to see if there is a local scheme in your area. Alternatively, you can call the Homeshare team on 0151 227 3499.
Other useful services
- Independent age befriending services: 0800 319 6789
- The Silver Line team are available for a chat 24/7: 0800 470 80 90
- Friends of the Elderly offer year round support: 0330 332 1110
- Contact the Elderly help tackle loneliness and social isolation: 0800 716543
And, for additional advice and support you could also visit Mind’s How to cope with loneliness or call 0300 123 3393