Loneliness epidemic cutting short life of Burnley old folk

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ALMOST 1,500 people in Burnley over the age of 65 could be suffering from physical and mental health problems caused by loneliness.

The shocking figures were revealed as the Government pledged to work with the care sector to look at measures of loneliness and help identify people at risk of social isolation.

According to research an average of 10% of pensioners say they are lonely or very lonely.

Last month the Express revealed how the body of 63-year-old Maureen Wood, of Ebor Street, Burnley, was found at her home up to 10 months after she died.

She was discovered by an inspector from energy supplier EON who forced entry into the house. He had been sent to cut off the gas supply because bills had not been paid.

MP Gordon Birtwistle urged organisations in Burnley to try to address the issue: “If we don’t start to champion loneliness as a health and care issue, elderly people in Burnley and Padiham will continue to have their lives cut short,” he said.

“Earlier this year Lib-Dem ministers Steve Webb and Paul Burstow hosted the first ever summit on loneliness among older people – and I intend to join them in highlighting the importance of this issue both in Burnley and in the Coalition Government.

“As a Liberal Democrat MP I believe the more we can do to provide people with the social contact they need to stay physically and mentally well, the better it is for Burnley’s older population.”

Mr Gordon Lishman CBE, former director general of Age Concern, who lives in Burnley, welcomed the Government’s pledge and said more needed to be done to help elderly people who have been bereaved.

“There’s no doubt that loneliness among the elderly is a big problem. Things are being highlighted about the effects of loneliness and that is right. If you are lonely because the person you’ve spent the last 40, 50, 60 or 70 years of your life with has died, nothing is fundamentally going to change that.

“The key point is to help them through bereavement. You can never take away the loss of a husband or wife you’ve lived with for decades, but what you can do is come out the other side.

“When people have been bereaved, carry on talking to them, carry on involving them in things.

“The tendency is to make the issue of loneliness among older people seem quite simple and obvious. The reality is more difficult but that’s how we get it across.”