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Later In Life: Loneliness in the North East a 'desperate' situation

Isolation has been referred to as 'a silent epidemic.' Photo: ITV Tyne Tees

The extent - and effects - of loneliness among older people, in the North East, is set to increase. That's according to one ageing expert, who warns that more needs to be done to combat the problem. The charity Contact the Elderly already describes the situation, for some people in the region, as 'desperate.' And, with the population predicted to live longer, there are wider fears about the spread of isolation.

National figures, from Age UK, currently reveal that:

49%
of over 65s say that television or a pet is their main form of company.
49%
of over 75s live alone.
9%
of older people feel trapped in their own home.

More than a million older people, across the country, are predicted to suffer from loneliness, at one time or another. One of them is Joan, from North Tyneside:

"My daughter rings me every day, usually about half 8 at night. Sometimes she'll say, have you got a croaky voice? I'll say, no. I just haven't spoke to anyone all day."

– Joan

One ageing expert, from Newcastle University, says that loneliness has a negative effect on health:

"More recently, the evidence shows that people who are lonely die sooner, so they have a lower life expectancy than people who are not lonely. They're also more susceptible to a wide range of health conditions. So, heart disease is higher for people who are lonely. They are more susceptible to forms of dementia. That obviously has a wide impact on society because we all pick up the cost through our health system."

– Professor Thomas Scharf, Newcastle University

The charity Contact the Elderly holds regular tea parties for isolated individuals. One of their workers, Valerie Walker, says the situation, for some lonely people, can be severe:

"For some older people the situation is incredibly desperate. I don't know if you can imagine, day in and day out, sitting in a room, by yourself. We had one lady who came to a group and said it's the first time she'd been out in 3 months."

– Valerie Walker, Contact the Elderly

You can see more in a series of special reports, on ITV News Tyne Tees, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

Where can I get help?

A variety of organisations offer services to help. Some of those include:

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