Loneliness has been seen to have a damaging effect on physical health, with research showing it has the same effect on mortality, as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
More than 75% of women and a third of men over the age of 65 now live alone, with an increasing number of older people feeling isolate, resulting in damaging effects to mental health.
What can you do to help? Advice from the experts:
Make the effort to visit regularly Try to visit elderly relatives or neighbours regularly - it’s all about human contact. You may not be able to visit very often, but when you can, make sure you make the most of it by going out, making lunch or taking a walk
Call for five or ten minutes in the day If you can't visit in person get into a regular habit of making a five or ten-minute phone call every day. Try to do this at a regular time, so it’s something they can look forward to in the routine of their day
Encourage them to get online A recent report from Age UK found that over a quarter of people aged 65+ who admitted to feeling lonely said that keeping in contact with family and friends via the web helped relieve feelings of isolation
Teach someone to play games online If they feel happy online why not introduce them to online gaming or lend them a tablet to play games which need two or more people
Look into opportunities in the local area There are plenty of opportunities in many areas to join others in keeping active. The local leisure centre may have bowls groups or gentle exercise classes and older people may be eligible for low-cost membership
Encourage them to get out of the house If you can't do this once a week, some councils run walking programmes in that aren’t too arduous so check online to see what is available in the area
Reconnect with a local library Libraries are a good source of knowledge about local activities so make sure you check noticeboards or buy a local paper to find out about local charities and befriending groups
Get in touch with a befriending scheme National and local befriending schemes are springing up as part of the drive to reduce loneliness. They might be able to provide a visitor in person, or even a phone call service to people living on their own.