Edinburgh pensioners ‘loneliest in the country’

Lonliness is a major problem among pensioners. Picture: John Devlin

Lonliness is a major problem among pensioners. Picture: John Devlin

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EDINBURGH’S pensioners are the loneliest in the UK, according to a new survey.

The Capital came out at the bottom of the table for the amount of time that over-65s spend with family and friends.

Today, old age charities and council chiefs urged people to check on their older relatives and neighbours to make sure they are not “suffering in silence” as Christmas approaches.

The survey, conducted by polling company TNS, asked 2300 pensioners across the UK – including around 120 in Edinburgh – how much time they spent out of the house, socialising with friends and family. The answer from over-65s in the Capital was an average of less than an hour a day, making them the loneliest in the UK.

Derek Young, policy officer at Age Scotland, said: “Around 42,000 older Scots are estimated to feel lonely. This can have a serious effect on their mental and physical health: it has been likened to having a 15-a-day smoking habit, and is twice as harmful as obesity.

“Often it is prompted by specific changes in people’s lives rather than simply getting older – most obviously the death of a partner or spouse, moving into new accommodation or a new area, retirement, family moving away, or a loss of mobility.

“At this time of year, it’s more important than ever for people to check up on their older relatives, friends and neighbours to make sure they aren’t suffering in silence.

“There are often groups which older people can get involved in within their communities – whether they involve singing, dancing, quilting, reminiscing and creative writing – or walking football or Men’s Sheds.”

He said people feeling lonely could call Silver Line Scotland, a freephone service that offers friendship contact 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (0800 4 70 80 90).

City council social care convener Ricky Henderson said the survey findings were disappointing.

He said: “Both the council and our third-sector partners are doing a lot of work to contact isolated people, particularly the elderly, to make sure they are kept as active and involved as possible.

“It is a challenge and we always have to be aware that isolation and loneliness can make existing health problems worse.”

He said the report was a reminder at this time of year for people to look out for their elderly neighbours. “Christmas is a time of year when it’s easy to feel lonely and it’s good if people can pop in over the festive period to check everything is OK.”

Patrick Stannah, managing director of Stannah Stairlifts, which commissioned the survey said: “Sadly, loneliness is still a major issue, especially for the people in Edinburgh. Picking up the phone or stopping by for a cup of tea with your elderly relatives or neighbours can have a huge impact on their lives.

“This Christmas, we urge everyone across the UK to spend more time with their elderly family members or friends, be it in person or through conversations over the phone.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com