BBC Radio 5 takes a Look at Social Isolation and Loneliness in Today’s Older Generation

Photo by Pedro Ribeiro Simões

Less than 40% of care home users say they have as much social contact as they would like. That is a staggering statistic that presenter Shelaugh Fogarty gave on her BBC Radio 5 show – and that’s not including the older people who don’t go to care homes.

Fogarty spent the day at the Peartree Centre in Milton Keynes at an event hosted by Age UK, with dozens of older people who gather at the centre for some much needed socialising.

We have lots of Diners signed up to Casserole Club and many of them have similar experiences to those people that Shelaugh met in Milton Keynes. They are not only receiving meals, but meeting someone new in their area. To these people, it’s not so much about the food as it is about having someone come into their home, asking how they are and wanting to hear about their day.

People like Elsie, 84, whom Fogarty interviewed, say it’s the worst feeling, being lonely. Elsie dresses herself up everyday – even Sundays when she won’t see anyone all day – and has won awards for volunteering. But, she wonders, “how come my family don’t come around to visit me any more?” Elsie says she has children and grandchildren, yet she will go days without seeing anyone.

Jim, also 84, lost his wife of 56-years, a few years ago and retreated from social activities to deal with his grief: “The one thing no one prepares you for is loneliness,” says Jim. “ And if you look at it, the worst punishment you could actually give somebody is to put them in social confinement. And there’s so many people in that situation.” He said getting back involved with things and activities he used to do pulled him out of his grief. He now lives with his lovely son and and daughter-in-law in a separate part of their home and says he is very happy.

Mary, another attendee at the Peartree Centre, lives on her own and originally comes from a big family. Now, however, Mary said she can go all week without seeing anyone. She is not used to this loneliness during the week, explaining that it is only recent, as everyone is gone. When it comes to the weekend, however, her grandchildren always visit, and she says it instantly brightens her day.

Hearing stories like this really makes you realise how much one phone call, or one chat over a cup of tea, can mean to an older person. Last month, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt stated, “According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, there are 800,000 people in England who are chronically lonely.” When you hear a number like that, how could you not want to donate even 5 minutes of your time to someone who just wants some company?

At Casserole Club, we are already hard at work to minimise that number. If you want to get involved in the campaign to end loneliness, sign up on the Casserole Club website, and if we are live in your borough, you can start cooking for, and visiting an older neighbour near you.

If you know an older person, whether it be a neighbour, parent, or a friend, you can refer them to us and we will find them a Cook.


If you want to hear more from Shelaugh Fogarty and her visit to the Peartree centre in Milton Keynes, click here to listen to the whole show.

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