Carl Bell is Head of Communities at Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council and has assisted the Campaign in the development of our loneliness toolkit for health and wellbeing boards.

In this short blog (written for the launch of the toolkit) he explains why and how his health and wellbeing board are working to better understand the issue of loneliness in older age and considers how alleviating loneliness will improve the quality of life and health of older adults in Oldham:

“Isolation and loneliness is cutting across our different communities: affluent non affluent, large communities and small communities. The all too stark messages are there if you look – dramatic increase in single households, ageing population, bereavement of partner, loss of kinship and known community.

In order to alleviate mental health conditions, breakdown in physical health and to encourage happier lives for our older population Health and Well-Being Boards need to address the key determinants of loneliness and isolation and develop practical measures to tackle these issues.

We have taken our first steps to ensure the board understands the issues: after initially holding a ‘coffee’ morning of interested parties with professionals, partners and older people we found such a strong relationship between loneliness and other cross-cutting themes that we have set up a more formal ‘review group’ to investigate the issue further.

This review group will have links to the Ageing Well programme which is a key theme of the health and wellbeing board.

We found it crucial to listen to real life experiences and piece together the background situations and what could be done to alleviate problems and support a more positive outcome.”

If your health and wellbeing board is interested in taking action on loneliness:

The loneliness toolkit for health and wellbeing boards is designed to help those with overarching responsibility for health and social care to better understand, identify and commission interventions for the issue of loneliness in older age.

Its start with considering how pre-existing council data, and mapping of local assets, can identify the area’s most at risk of chronic loneliness and finishes with the suggestions on commissioning, monitoring and evaluating a local strategy on loneliness and isolation.

With a growing collection of academic research, downloadable resources and local examples, we hope that this toolkit will be an informative and practical resource to support health and wellbeing boards to not only alleviate pressure on health and social care services but also address the detrimental impact of loneliness on quality of life in older age.