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In an age when society is more connected than ever, where people live longer and most can drive, why should there still be a need for services like ours? People can be lonely and isolated for a whole host of reasons, and now key lobbying and activist groups such as Campaign to End Loneliness have backed research claiming that loneliness is as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Plus, the Government has recognised to tackle the epidemic at parliamentary level by appointing a Minister for Loneliness.

Here are some of the reasons that our CareLink friends rely on us:

FAMILY: Family members may become spread out geographically, work in demanding jobs, or even have young families of their own which makes finding time for others outside of the home, difficult. Sadly, it’s not unknown that family relationships have become estranged or even abusive. Some simply have no surviving family members to call on.

PHYSICAL HEALTH: Poor health can mean that people aren’t as mobile as they once were, become unsteady on their feet or don’t like to leave home for too long because they need to be close to a bathroom. As well as the physical limitations of poor health, there is also the worry that they will become ill or ‘caught short’. This can lead to people becoming more housebound as they lose the confidence to be away from their home.

MENTAL HEALTH: Depression and isolation are a vicious cycle. The more isolated a person becomes the more depressed they will become, and the less inclined to put on a happy face to go out in public and socialise. Dealing with serious depression and loneliness is more than just a case of ‘pulling yourself together’, and for older people, it can be very difficult to overcome with an often reduced network of support.

FINANCES: Older people can be subject to revocation of a driving license due to poor eyesight or slowing reaction times. This loss of independence is made worse by the cost of taxis or the lack of affordable and reliable public transport. People often only justify the expense of getting around when they have a medical appointment to attend.

ROLES AS A CARER: As people age, they are more likely to fall into the role of unpaid, full-time carer, for an elderly relative or partner. Their life becomes restricted to the same limitations as their frail charge. Often in these circumstances their life is overtaken with an endless cycle of appointments and visits, related solely to the person they care for. Every conversation is with a healthcare professional and revolves around the well-being of somebody else. It is easy to see why people in this situation struggle to find time for their own welfare.

TECHNOLOGICAL RESTRICTIONS: We live in a world where most information is now accessed purely online. For the older generations of today, they often lack the skill and the equipment to be able to do this.


Combinations of the above factors causing loneliness often mean that people do not have support networks and do not know where to get help from when they have a practical problem, or worse still reach a point of despair. Those people will often only come to the attention of others once a crisis has been reached. This can mean that they will require unplanned and avoidable medical intervention – including emergency GP home visits and trips to A&E – and are more likely to have to stay in hospital longer to regain a level of independence after being admitted.

Even outside of crisis situations, some regularly book non-health related GP appointments for what are really social problems, causing strain on already stretched primary care services; this is obviously not the most effective way of meeting an individual’s social needs.

Let’s put that into some perspective:


  • The cost to the NHS of a single GP visit is £40
  • The cost of being seen in A&E is £105
  • The likelihood of older people being kept in overnight for observations when they present to A&E is the same as their age i.e.: 70-year-olds are 70% likely to be kept in. Anybody aged 90+ will be kept in 100% of the time
  • The average cost of a hospital admission up to 24 hours is £675
  • The average cost of a hospital admission over one day is £2,100 per day
  • Community hospital stays cost on average £7,000
  • Average cost of intermediate care on return home is £1,400

Based on the costs above, the cost of one older person’s crisis can easily cost the NHS £10,645.

For the same amount, CareLink can make 96,409 welfare calls to pick up early signs of deteriorating health to keep people out of crisis in the first place.


As part of the Age-Friendly City agenda, Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Public Health Department has, in conjunction with partners, requested an updated report on loneliness for 2017.

It concluded that:


  • There are seven categories regarding risk of social isolation and loneliness by analysing risk factors
  • Of a total 115,200 properties, 13,214 (11.5%) were put in Category One: most at risk
  • It is expected that between 2020 and 2030 the number of over-65s living alone in the city will increase by almost 29%, to 19,513 people
  • A significant portion of that population will spend the majority of their time with no regular company

In 2017 we performed an evaluation of the likely impact of loneliness in this age bracket. Below are some standout highlights, or you can view the full document here.

  • A diagnosis of depression in those over 65 increased mortality by 70% (Dewey ME, Sz P (2001)
  • Being isolated from family and friends has been linked with a 26% higher death risk over seven years (The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, UCL)
  • A five-year study showed higher levels of loneliness were associated with greater increases in systolic blood pressure (Hawkley, L. C., Thisted, C. M. and Capioppo, J. T. 2010)
  • Increased psychological distress is associated with 11% increased risk of stroke (Surtees PG, Wainwright NWJ, Luben RN, Wareham NG et al (2008)
  • Half of older people consider the TV their main form of company (ICM Research Survey for Age UK, March 2013), which equates to 19,600 older people currently in the City
  • Between a quarter and a third of older people either don’t go out socially at least once per month, or would like to go out more often (Department of Work and Pensions)
  • Interventions to increase social participation can prevent depression, particularly in older people (Royal College of General Practitioners)
  • Research proved that loneliness was a predictor of depression over time (Cacioppo JT, Hughes ME, Waite LJ, Hawkley LC, Thisted RA, 2006)
  • British Journal of Psychiatry research found that a significant reduction in depressive symptoms can be achieved through befriending support (Mead et al, 2010)


If you know someone over 65 who struggles with social exclusion, search our community directory map for events, groups and services that can help nearby.


There are many ways you can make a difference to older people who live near you, from volunteering to make phone calls to organising activities.


Help us help older people struggling with life’s challenges alone by donating to CareLink. Click to visit our donations page.