Doctors in England can now prescribe social activities to older patients in a bid to combat loneliness.
Three quarters of GPs have said they are seeing between one and five people a day suffering with loneliness and around 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month.
Government funding has been announced for GPs to use ‘social prescribing’, which allows them to connect patients with a variety of community based activities including cookery classes, walking clubs and art groups. The idea is that it will help people improve their health and wellbeing, instead of defaulting to medicine.
Businesses across the UK are also getting involved, with Sainsbury’s providing Talking Tables in their cafes, The Co-op and British Red Cross have teamed up to support people in the community and Royal Mail are piloting a scheme in Liverpool for postal workers to check up on lonely people as part of their usual delivery rounds.
Jo Cox MP was passionate about tackling loneliness and Kim Leadbeater, Ms Cox’s sister, on behalf of the Jo Cox Foundation, said:
The important thing now is to turn the dialogue and strategy into action.
That is undoubtedly what Jo would want and for every life that is made less lonely as a result of the work she started and that we have all continued, we will take great comfort. I look forward to this happening in the coming months and years.
The centre for Ageing Better is also calling for charities, voluntary organisations and the public sector to do more to support and sustain the good will and effort of older volunteers.