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By Debbie le Quesne

Isolation with the elderly – a new approach

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Isolation amongst older people has been a debating topic for long, long time.

It’s cruel psychological toll has been used to bolster the argument for residential care, for keeping open day care centres and not least, as a strong driver to support the Government-threatened Remploy, a national company specifically employing and empowering the disabled.

Today we work longer hours and later into our lives. It appears we are making a santitised return to the early days of the Industrial Revolution where ‘free time’ was at a premium.

Whether we like it or not, jobs continue to cut deeper into our existence as our work ethic intensifies.

This has had a profound effect on many people’s social lives. Careers not only help maintain a sense self worth, but also to fill a social purpose too.

Recently, Vicki Purewal, Head of Nesta’s Centre for Challenge Prizes wrote a guest post for campaigning PR outfit Forster Communications.

She posed a searching question: “In a recent poll one third of British workers confessed that the majority of their friends are colleagues from work and that their primary source of social interaction occurred in the work place.

“A sociable and rewarding working environment is no problem during our working years but what happens when we reach retirement? Could this lead to isolation?”

Some find leaving work embracing retirement a happy relief. But for those who put everything into work and little elsewhere, the end of a career can signify life not only slowing down but also losing worth.

Undoubtedly we have an existing loneliness problem among some of our elderly.

But I fear a bigger one awaits in the wings of a nation where pensions have been battered and a retirement age raised.

When the sociable lifeline of work is cut off and a sense there is little left to contribute or feel valued for creeps in, it is not surprising that retirement can result in loneliness, isolation and depression.

Purewal writes: ”What if we could find ways of keeping work based contacts together, rather than losing touch when they retire?

“At the same time, could we maintain a sense of being valued for what we have done and can still do, however old we are? These are some of the many challenges that must be overcome in the struggle against isolation and loneliness.”

She concluded that in bringing people together perhaps we can reduce isolation and increase the mobility of vulnerable older people, by creating new opportunities for people to give time, skills and resources.

Could creating employer or career alumni associations – groups where people of the same career backgrounds can meet, socialise and generally keep in touch through the network – be one way of reducing isolation in older generations, Purewal asks.

Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, has recognised the need for ideas like this by creating the Ageing Well Challenge, part of a series of challenge prizes to reward and test innovative ideas that can meet challenges faced by society today.

The Ageing Well Challenge has been set up specifically to encourage innovative ideas that reduce isolation in older people. The winning idea will receive up to £50,000.

It is time to get our thinking caps on? I think so.

If you have an idea that you think can help to reduce isolation in old age, apply at www.nesta.org.uk/givingchallenges

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Written by debbielq

August 29, 2012 at 10:09 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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