Today, the Big Lottery Fund announces a new fund to tackle social isolation. As with every new idea, announcement, organisation, method or local initiative – the more the merrier. Around 3 million (30%) of those over 65 are lonely and with a growing older population, there is a risk that this number will increase in the future to almost 6 million by 2050. This number may be further exacerbated by changing demographics such as the increasing number of 45 -65 year olds living alone (a major risk factor in becoming isolated and lonely in later life). In order to help people today and prevent today’s 20, 30 and 40 year olds from becoming lonely in the future more of us need to do more to tackle social isolation and loneliness in older age.

Many of you are already working to tackle isolation and loneliness in older age – we know because you have come together with the other 350 organisations who have joined the Campaign, benefitting from the latest news, research, events and good practice in tackling loneliness. If you haven’t joined yet, sign up here.

What more needs to be done and will the Big Lottery Fund’s (BLF) new money be the answer?

We need three main things: leadership, partnership and working on what works. Leadership from organisations like BLF, from those in our communities such as health and wellbeing boards, who are making decisions about all of our health and wellbeing, to tackle loneliness in older age. We need partnership, which this BLF funding supports and encourages. And we need to be working on “what works” in tackling loneliness.

The first that we know works (from previous research by Professor Cattan, a social gerontologist and member of the Campaign’s Research Hub) is understanding where the person who is feeling lonely, or at risk of loneliness, is coming from: what are they feeling. This is hard to get to, it is a sensitive area, but that is why it is so crucial to get it right. Research has shed a little light on these areas. Firstly, definitions and terminology matter. Not because it is nice to know, or because we like to talk in theoretical ways. But because it accurately describes the nuances of the emotional minefield we are trying to help people avoid. Is the person isolated (basically, the number of contacts in a day), or lonely (their level of contentedness with their contact – one person’s intense loneliness is another person’s blissful peace and quiet!)? Also, are they missing one person (emotional loneliness) or feeling part of a wider network of friends (social loneliness). These “definitions” all matter when it comes to offering solutions, designing activities and services and reaching out to those who are isolated and lonely, or at risk.

At the Campaign we are seeking to undertake further in depth work with two academic institutions to further our overall understanding of “what works in tackling loneliness”. If you are interested in finding out more, particularly if you are a funder, do contact the Director of the Campaign.

If you want to read more about what is already known about “what works in tackling loneliness”, have a read of our two publications listed below and found on our resources page

Safeguarding the Convoy – a call to action from the Campaign to End Loneliness (bottom of page)

The State We’re In – a research summary by the Campaign to End Loneliness