NEARLY one in five of Scotland’s over 75-year-olds, who live alone, are unable to leave their house due to poor health, according to research by older people’s charity WRVS.
The findings also identified that 26 per cent of Scottish older people are lonely – a common side effect of being housebound. Five per cent of Scottish over-75s who live alone are not speaking to anyone for days at a time.
The consequences of being lonely can be devastating to the individual. Nearly a fifth of the country’s over-75s who are lonely said they have lost their confidence, with 25 per cent saying they now suffer from depression.
Extreme loneliness can quickly lead to a deterioration in physical well-being as a result of not eating. Worryingly eight per cent of Scotland’s older people who are lonely also admitted they were not eating properly.
Loneliness among older people often leads to unnecessary GP and hospital visits. The findings of this research add to the mounting evidence showing that loneliness is a serious health problem for older people and one that is particularly acute in Scotland and across the UK.
A WRVS report published in May showed that older people in the UK are the loneliest across four comparable European countries.
WRVS has been pioneering innovative ways of providing food services to older people in Scotland by developing a more personalised approach. For example, WRVS in Clydesdale now runs a monthly lunch in the local pub lounge. This service developed in response to demand from local older people who wanted to go out for a pub lunch, but had no one to go with.