The challenges of an ageing population
'Old age doesn't come alone' as the saying goes. While many of our elderly residents will enjoy good health and an active social life, older people have been shown to be more at risk from loneliness and social isolation.
Over half a million older people in the UK go a week without seeing anyone.
Social isolation is a measure of the number of family, friends and acquaintances, as well as the frequency of our social interactions.
Social isolation is affected by physical isolation, which is more common in rural areas. Some parts have some of the longest drive and public transport times to key services such as the GP surgery or Post Office in Scotland. Getting out and about can also become more of a challenge due to health or mobility issues.
The health impacts of loneliness are as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Loneliness is a negative emotional state that occurs when we are unhappy with the quality or quantity of our social relationships. Loneliness is known to contribute to a higher incidence of mental and physical health problems in individuals. As we get older, we are more likely to experience periods of loneliness.
Loneliness and social isolation often occur together, however a person can feel lonely even when surrounded by people.
Why this area?
The research took place in the Rural North of Stirling (where the Linkage project has been set up). We have chosen this area because:
- 1 in 5 of the population in North Rural Stirlingshire is currently 65 or older
- By 2032 it is projected that nearly 1 in 3 of population in the area will be 65 or over
- The area has some of the longest drive and public transport times in Scotland to access key services such as GP surgeries or the Post Office
- The research findings show that loneliness and isolation are a serious concern for the older age group in the area, but there is still stigma around admitting feeling lonely.
- Loneliness is a complex issue with no single cause. Both internal factors (low mood, lack of confidence and motivation) and external barriers contribute to loneliness and isolation. Practical issues such as difficulties with transport, physical disabilities and family members having moved away have a more profound impact in rural communities.
- Despite having an ageing population, there are fewer groups and activities in the Trossachs and Teith area and some groups have difficulties attracting new members.