Working to combat loneliness

By Sarah Edwards

With approximately 11,000 older people in Oxfordshire being regularly lonely, Age UK Oxfordshire has launched its third winter campaign to combat the epidemic of loneliness.
In the third year of the campaign, Age UK Oxfordshire is creating a live living room scene in Bonn Square, outside the new Westgate Shopping Centre in Oxford. This scene, with local older actors, will represent an older person being completely alone on Christmas Day – the reality for thousands of people aged 65 and over across Oxfordshire. There will also be scheduled poetry readings by older actors from a local professional theatre group, Living the Drama.
Age UK Oxfordshire wants to raise awareness and funds for those who need support. This event will run on Saturday 16 December between 10am and 4pm.

As well as this having detrimental effects on mental health including being more prone to depression there are physical consequences of social isolation. In fact, loneliness is associated with an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke and is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
But loneliness is preventable. Age UK Oxfordshire works hard to tackle loneliness through a programme of interlinked activities that reach out to older people who have become isolated. One way that Age UK Oxfordshire works to combat loneliness is through its Phone Friends service – an unfunded telephone befriending service. Currently over 280 of the most lonely and isolated people in Oxfordshire are receiving at least one call a week from one of 45 caring and friendly volunteers.

Phone Friends are some of the loneliest and isolated people in society, house-bound or even bed-bound, unable to take advantage of other services such as lunch clubs or activities and often feeling forgotten and overlooked as a result.
It is vital that this service, the Information and Advice line and other Age UK Oxfordshire services receive funds in order to continue. One phone call from a phone friend can be a lifeline.
Penny Thewlis, Age UK Oxfordshire‟s Chief Executive, is passionate about combating loneliness. She said: “For many of those in later life, loneliness is an everyday experience. Chronic loneliness is debilitating both physically and emotionally but it can be prevented.”
Because Age UK Oxfordshire is a local independent charity, all the money raised directly supports people in Oxfordshire. An extra £5,000 is needed to help over 11,000 people aged over 65 who regularly feel lonely.

There are many ways we can all help to combat loneliness:
– Simply text AUKO99 £10 to 70070 to donate £10 or whatever you would like to give. – Donate online via – Post a cheque to Age UK Oxfordshire, 9 Napier Court, Barton Lane, Abingdon, OX14 3YT
£10 would enable Phone Friends volunteers to make five friendly calls to isolated and vulnerable older people.
£30 would provide opportunities for three older people facing the future following the loss of a loved one to find friendship in a support group.
£60 would provide three isolated people with expert information and advice that helps connect them to people, activities and friendship locally.