“3.6 million older people in the UK live alone, of whom over 2 million are aged 75+” (Age Uk 2018)
The effects of loneliness can make a huge impact on a persons life in regards to their; physical health, physical activity and mental health. You can read more about the effects of loneliness here: The Effects of Loneliness by James Alexander Crewdson (2016)
I went up to Liverpool to visit my dad for the day, it was just before Christmas time and we went to his local (ish) social club. However, I couldn’t help but notice I was assessing every movement. Not just on my poor dad, but on those around me too.
The first thing I noticed was that my dad has started to complain a lot – about everything he possibly can? Is this something that happens as you grow older? We become a bunch of complainers? Haha (no offence to any elders out there). Next, he went to cross the road without the traffic lights… not just ANY road, a huge busy, main carriage way road. I understand, many people do this safely all the time, but not my dad. He has always been the safe type, very careful, very proud and always pays attention to details. Why was he suddenly crossing the road like this? I felt the roles had reversed and I had now become his parent.
Does anyone else find themselves doing a whole holistic assessment on their family members and friends now? I found myself doing this more as the day went on.
As we sat inside the social club, I noticed the people around us, mostly over the age of 65 years old and full of life. A couple of them were dancing but at the same time, almost falling over from having poor balance. I looked at their feet, what shoes they had on, and assessed their footwear for such an occasion. I also noticed a couple of the ladies with very swollen ankles – ‘Am I risk assessing? Really?’
However, these wonderful people were up dancing, socialising and not a mobile phone or tablet in sight! It was actually bliss to see. There have been many times when I’ve gone out with family or friends and observed the world around me. People sat in restaurants or walking, not looking up but instead down at their phones. Oh, and believe me, I’m hugely guilty of this. We won’t mention the times I’ve walked into a post because I’ve been so involved in my phone rather than the road ahead of me. And yes, it was in public and people saw me do that haha! It is something I am definitely improving on.
But it was lovely to see, to watch those around me not have a care in the world, even if it was for a brief afternoon. People coming together in this social club. Laughing, joking, dancing and singing. These people had come alive!
There has been a massive decline in social clubs in Liverpool lately. I’m not 100% certain what this is like across the U.K.? Are there such things as social clubs near you? Let me know.
I do know that two of my dads, actual, local social clubs were closed down and revamped into something else… Which really upset him and his group of friends. I wonder how much money they make now? I’m assuming it’s all money orientated? But you can’t put a price on happiness. This is why my dads new ish social club is now his local (ish) one. He now has to get a bus which takes around 20 minutes to get there and then the unsafe crossing of that busy dual carriage way.
But he makes the effort, like they all do there, because it’s just what it says on the tin – it’s social. It’s all the joy he has recently. He enjoys the social life! He enjoys making jokes with the friends he has left, he enjoys watching others dancing. He enjoys his free Scouse at lunch time there (which is actually really good Scouse!)
This is what keeps them all going I think, the social interactions with one another. Something to look forward to every third Sunday of the month – It’s fantastic. But what happens when we take that social club away from them all? What’s going to happen when they all close down? Is my dads reckless road crossing and declining in health, a result of becoming more and more lonely? Or is this just general age related conditions?
How can we as nurses and healthcare professionals improve their lives in the future? How can we keep our elders active, sociable and looking forward to the small things in life? Could this give them a sense of belonging? A sense of purpose in this life? Give them something back?
According to the Maslow hierarchy of needs, there are 5 key parts
‘Belonging and love needs’ – A lot of elderly people have lost this. Their loved ones, friends, family. They are at an age where their friends are passing on, their children are grown (or maybe they didn’t have children), their partner may have passed away too. And that leaves them with just them… resulting in loneliness. The family they do have around we need to include them in their care. You can read more about this hierarchy here: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
Keeping these social clubs and activities as part of their life is so important. But once the social clubs close down, we need to ensure we support those elders close to our hearts, whether at work or at home. Something we should all be doing wherever we can and wherever we work.
Here are some useful website to check if there’s any social clubs and activities near you: