Sally Cupitt, senior consultant with Charity Evaluation Services (CES), gives us her thoughts on the research and writing of ‘Listening to You: the baseline report from the Campaign to End Loneliness’.

I’m so chuffed that Listening to You is getting published: getting our work out there is important to evaluators and researchers.

It seems ages ago that Charities Evaluation Services undertook the study – although of course it’s only a few months. However, it’s impossible to forget the unexpectedly high response rate. I had wrongly assumed we might struggle to get enough data. In the end we were overwhelmed, with sacks of mail arriving some days. We were able to include data from 1542 people in the findings; several hundred more responses trickled in over the months after the closing date.

The older people we contacted were much more engaged in the topic than I had imagined, and we were provided with a huge amount of rich data. This will help the Campaign to End Loneliness develop its work over the coming years and will also help us evaluate its achievements at the end.

The findings contain a wealth of information about older people, their social connectedness and their attitudes to loneliness.

What stays with me now is how the findings give such cause for optimism. We know from other research that about 10% of older people often feel lonely. We also know that this has a profound affect on their health, and the Campaign is key in its attention to this issue. However, what our research also identifies is large numbers of older people connecting with others and getting engaged in their local communities, including giving substantial help and support to others.

It was also clear that people thought that things were worse than they are. Most respondents thought loneliness in older people was much more prevalent than it is. Also, people under 65 were more worried about loneliness than older people. These findings suggest that there is work to be done countering negative views of older age, views held by both younger people and older people themselves.

I was also struck by how many people wanted to help others stay connected, with a third of respondents wanting to do more. I was touched by the sadness expressed by some at their inability to do more, due to barriers like disability or poverty.

It is a familiar cliché that all research suggests areas for further research, but of course that is what I am going to do. It would be really interesting to look further at how much helping others to remain connected can, in itself, alleviate one’s own loneliness.

The report and accompanying postcards can be found here on the Campaign to End Loneliness website.