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Planning Retirement Online

Loneliness widespread amongst men

May 2017

man on his own at birthday

In the past, it was very normal for women to outlive men. Today though, thanks to improved male working conditions and health care along with other reasons, often it is the male who is left to cope when their wife dies before them.

Now new research just released by the cross party Commission on Loneliness suggests that an estimated eight million men feel lonely at least once a week. This is nearly a third of the population and the Commission say that while this is a vast problem, it is aggravated by the fact that many men will not admit being lonely.

Their research was undertaken for the Commission by the Royal Voluntary Service, who said that the results showed that over a quarter of men aged between 65 an 69 had felt lonely after retiring.  One in ten men do not see anyone on a regular basis. Other results showed that many older men have no close friends which leaves them very isolated if their partner dies.

This week the Commission’s Jo Cox has launched a month long campaign to spur public, government and business to address the situation.

The campaign shines a spotlight on male loneliness and explores practical solutions to address it.

Under the slogan ‘Start a Conversation’, the Commission wants to mobilise the public to help themselves and others around them – educating people on how they can become part of the solution.

Co-chair of the Commission, Seema Kennedy said: “Many men may be reluctant to accept they need support to address loneliness, which is why projects such as the Men’s Sheds movement, as well as many others across the country, are so vital. We are calling on the public, businesses and government to consider what more could be done in their communities to tackle the problem – from starting their own men’s activity to simply making time to chat to those around them.”

Previous research has also flagged that older men are particularly vulnerable to loneliness as they are less likely to try and make new friends or join clubs and activities. As a result they are far more likely to be socially isolated than women. Sadly, this problem is only set to grow, with the country’s changing demographic resulting in an increasing number of older men living alone.  Indeed, it’s projected that by 2030 1.5m older men will be living alone in England in Wales – a huge increase of 65% on 2014 levels.

In support of the spotlight month, Prudential UK, a partner company of Royal Voluntary Service, has produced a film to raise awareness of the issue and conveying the importance of building networks and connections. It follows three older men who have all faced loneliness and conquered it through the support of their communities.

One of the stars of the film, Ken Stanyer, 88 from Stoke-on-Trent said: "I've always been a social person but when my wife passed away, it knocked me for six. I wouldn't see anyone for days and found myself feeling incredibly lonely. I decided to do something about it and asked people where I could go to learn to dance and to socialise. They told me about the dance club the Royal Voluntary Service runs at Hanley Community Centre and it's made a huge difference to me - Mondays are now one of the high points of the week!" 

David McCullough, chief executive of older people’s charity Royal Voluntary Service and founder member of the Campaign to End Loneliness said: “These are stark findings but given the stigma attached to loneliness it’s likely there are many more men who are yet to voice their feelings. We have long been providing support within local communities to help older men stay socially active and combat loneliness.  Whether it’s learning a new skill, practicing an old one or just keeping fit and talking, there are activities and groups run across the country to suit all tastes and which offer a great way for older men to build their social networks. Unfortunately, for some, the prospect of joining a new group may be daunting and we’d encourage those with older male friends and relatives to help them overcome these fears – perhaps by offering to take them or even joining in with them the first few times.”

Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age and a founder member of the Campaign to End Loneliness said: “We know older men can particularly experience loneliness and isolation after losing a partner and we all need to do more to help men prepare for, and manage, the inevitable setbacks and challenges later life can throw their way. We would welcome more people taking up the opportunity to connect with older men in their communities or reaching out through charity friendship services.”

To support the Commission’s campaign, people are also being encouraged to post #happytochat on their Twitter and Facebook posts to create online chatter around loneliness and raise awareness of just how many of us it can affect.

To find out more about the Commission and to how to get involved in tackling loneliness in your community visit JoCoxLoneliness.org

 


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