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Social prescription: Loneliness and the elderly

  • Ageing
  • 9:37 reading time (ish)
  • 1829 words

Written by Siobhan Cosgrave

Connecting with other people is fundamental for wellbeing. Sadly this is something the elderly often lack, social prescribing is one way this problem can be helped.

What is loneliness?

Most people have experienced feelings of loneliness. It often occurs during life transitions such as changing schools, moving to a new city or country or when an elderly person outlives their spouse and friends. Loneliness is often stigmatised, trivialised or ignored but when loneliness becomes a chronic condition, the impact can be far more serious than many people realise. Loneliness is emerging as a public health issue and the UK now has a designated loneliness minister to tackle the issue.

Elderly people are especially vulnerable to loneliness. According to Age U.K., more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone. 1.4 million elderly people saying they feel lonely with more than one million elderly people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, family member or neighbour.  Covid-19 and the national lockdowns exacerbated loneliness and social isolation (7).

Loneliness is not the same as social isolation. Social isolation is the lack of social contacts and having few people to interact with. A person can live alone and not feel lonely or isolated. Loneliness is an individuals personal, subjective sense of lacking desired affection, closeness, and social interaction with others (8). A person may be surrounded by other people but still feel lonely. This is common with elderly people in care homes or hospitals who are surrounded by others yet still experience chronic loneliness (9).

To truly overcome loneliness requires a sense of belonging which is only achieved through reciprocal connections. Lonely people need to feel they are contributing towards the connection to create a sense of belonging not just being the recipient of help (9).

Siobhan Cosgrave is a registered Herbalist, Naturopath and Ayurveda practitioner. She continues her studies and deep learning of Ayurvedic medicine with Ayurvedic doctors based in the U.K. and India.

In her practice, she combines ancient wisdom and modern science to help her clients correct underlying imbalances within the mind, body or spirit that are causing their health concerns. Siobhan is based in London but she works with clients globally.

She also loves growing plants, herbs and veggies in her house and garden.

Siobhan Cosgrave

Siobhan Cosgrave is a registered Herbalist, Naturopath and Ayurveda practitioner. She continues her studies and deep learning of Ayurvedic medicine with Ayurvedic doctors based in the U.K. and India.

In her practice, she combines ancient wisdom and modern science to help her clients correct underlying imbalances within the mind, body or spirit that are causing their health concerns. Siobhan is based in London but she works with clients globally.

She also loves growing plants, herbs and veggies in her house and garden.

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