The loneliness epidemic afflicting almost a million people is a "national shame", Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said today.
Speaking at the National Children and Adults Services conference in Harrogate, Mr Hunt said the problem of chronic loneliness was a problem we have "utterly failed to confront as a society."
ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies reports:
Loneliness can impact people's physical health and mental health, exacerbating and accelerating the decline of diabetes, dementia, heart disease and even some cancers, doctors warn.
ITV News spoke to one elderly lady who described "crying her eyes out" with boredom and loneliness, having lived alone since her husband died in 2002.
Winifred Green, 88, said part of the problem is that young, stressed and busy people "can't understand" what old aged loneliness feels like. She said:
She reached out to charity Independent Age, who arranged for a companion to come visit her once a week. The charity supports people to stay happy, healthy and connected in their old age, and help those experiencing feelings of isolation access support.
Age UK a "seismic cultural shift" was needed to help curtail the growing social isolation of older people, and warned that recent government cuts were exacerbating the problem.