More than 80 per cent of older people with mental health problems, who were asked the question, have admitted to feeling lonely in their care home and long for staff to spend time with them.
A lack of connection with others, specifically not enough communication with care home workers because of their workload, is making many residents wish for more quality time to talk to staff, according to research by the University of Bedfordshire.
The research, based on interviews with residents from six nursing homes, was conducted by Vasiliki Tzouvara, a PhD student in the university’s Institute for Health Research.
Miss Tzouvara revealed that some were not benefiting from social interaction with other residents and often excluded themselves from activities run by the care homes to avoid other residents with mental health who may express their illness in different ways such as shouting.
‚ÄúOne of my recommendations is that care home staff spend more time talking to residents and find ways to eradicate loneliness,‚Äù said Miss Tzouvara. Her research has been covered in the British Journal of Community Nursing, which published her piece ‘A narrative review of the theoretical foundations of loneliness’.
The study also found that limited communication with family members contributed to residents’ loneliness.
Levels of loneliness rose with age and men are more likely than women to suffer from intense experiences of emotional loneliness due to the loss of a spouse. Residents who were religious experienced lower levels of loneliness.
A lack of social connections, according to the Campaign to End Loneliness, is as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day and has more impact on mortality than well-known risk factors such as obesity.
Miss Tzouvara said: ‚ÄúThe study is particularly important considering the rapid growth of an aging population in the UK and the increasing number of older adults suffering from mental illness.‚Äù
According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) the number of people aged 80 and above is expected to more than double by 2037. It forecasts that the number of centenarians will increase sevenfold from 14,450 in 2014 to 111,000 in 2037.
Age UK identify loneliness as one of the major factors older people worry about.
According to the ONS report ‘Insights into Loneliness, Older People and Well-being 2015’ published this month, those aged 80 and over are twice as likely to report high levels of loneliness (29 per cent) than those in the working age and the 65 to 79 age group (14 per cent and 14 per cent respectively).
The ONS report concludes: ‘One in 12 of the population is projected to be aged 80 and over by 2037. Loneliness is going to become more of a problem over time.’