Lord Mayor supports Birmingham isolation campaign

Aim to raise awareness of solitary living.

The Lord Mayor of Birmingham is urging people to take more responsibility for their isolated loved ones and neighbours as part of a city-wide campaign.

Councillor Anne Underwood, who took over the ceremonial role in May last year, has spoken out during Ageing Together Week, a campaign launched to raise awareness of people who feel alone.

Ageing Together Week began on Monday, January 22nd and will come to an end on Sunday, January 28th, but it is hoped helping those feeling isolated will continue throughout the year and beyond. It is being run by Ageing Better in Birmingham, a £6 million National Lottery funded programme supported by the Big Lottery Fund, which aims to tackle isolation in the over 50s.

Councillor Underwood said: “Isolation and loneliness are hugely complex and usually lead to unpleasant emotional feelings and sadly it affects more people than we realise. I’ve worked in the area for more than 35 years and over the course of my tenure I’ve seen that times have changed. Many years ago, children used to remain close to their parents in adulthood, but in a world where jobs can easily be applied for anywhere in the world, we’re seeing more and more older people being left to live alone, their families moving away and often not visiting as much as they should be.

“We all have a responsibility to older people who feel alone. For those who have family members who live by themselves, I urge you to pick up the phone more often or, even better, visit them more frequently. For those who don’t have a lonely relative, I can guarantee we all know someone, or live close to someone, who feels completely and utterly alone. Do something neighbourly before it’s too late.”

Isolation is a problem that directly affects the people of Birmingham as it has been estimated that by 2020, almost 57,000 people aged 65 plus will be living alone in the city. This figure rises to almost 81,000, almost 53 per cent of the age group, when those with a limiting long-term illness are included.

Feeling alone and isolated is a negative emotional experience and can adversely affect both physical health and mental well-being. A review of 23 research studies involving 181,000 people across more than 20 years showed isolation raises the risk of stroke. The University of York said the findings meant the problem of people feeling alone should be treated as a public health problem like smoking or overeating, researchers have said.

Isolation has also been found to contribute towards stress, lower self-esteem, disturbed sleep, cardiovascular disease, dementia and other conditions. Stephen Raybould, Programme Director for Ageing Better in Birmingham, said: “There are too many people out there feeling isolated and yet it can be so easily tackled if we all work together.

“We all have a duty to reach out and help someone we see who may be struggling, but also those who are feeling alone must also find the confidence to ask for help. There is no need for anyone aged 50 or over to feel isolated because there is help and support out there, and plenty of activities taking place in their communities.

“We want Ageing Together Week to make busy people stop and think about others and for those feeling the impact of isolation to recognise it and actively search for help.”

So far almost 5,000 people have benefited from the Ageing Better in Birmingham scheme, which was launched in April 2015 and delivered by an Ageing Better Partnership, led by The Centre for Voluntary Action.